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In Lemon with an iPhone

Posted by Padraig on Feb 24, 2015

The first episode of Behind The App, a special series of Myke Hurley’s Inquisitive podcast, aired last week. Relay FM has taken tech podcasts in a new direction with this production, one that will be familiar to listeners of NPR or Radiotopia. Clips from interviews with a range of developers are carefully edited together, with narration and music, to form the story Myke wants to tell. The first installment focusses on the introduction of the iPhone and the early stages of app development for the platform.

Pádraig and I spoke to Myke for the series, and we briefly touched on some of our initial experiences with the phone, but I want to take the opportunity to share some background about that time in my life and where it has led.

Introducing iPhone

The iPhone was announced soon after I got my first Mac, a 20" white iMac. I was a freelance web developer, doing small projects for a few clients in Dublin. I was happy with my Mac but wasn’t caught up in the Apple world. Rumors of the imminent release of a phone were completely off my radar. I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook so I have no idea how I used to find out about anything, but I do remember ending up on one evening soon after the announcement and being completely floored by what I saw. I read through all the information I could find, examined the pictures a thousand times, and for the first time in my life sat down and watched an Apple keynote (in hindsight, I was completely spoiled by that being my first). Still, I thought it was too expensive and I told myself I was happy enough with my Nokia 3210 and should forget about it.

The iPhone didn’t officially launch in Ireland until March 2008, so it was quite rare to see one in Dublin before that. It was November 2007 when I saw one for the first time. I was meeting a friend, John Ryan, for a coffee and a crêpe, and another mutual friend of ours was there; I knew Pádraiga little from college but hadn’t seen him in years. Anyway, here he was in Lemon with an iPhone. Seeing and touching this device made it immediately clear that, cashflow be damned, I needed to have one. When mine arrived from New York there was little I could do with it other than slide to make emergency calls. I asked John for Pádraig’s number and called him out of the blue late one Friday night asking for help jailbreaking the phone.

Pádraig and I stayed in touch after that. We started working together on web projects, some for clients, some follies of our own. It would be quite a while before we started making apps together but the foundation was in place, and it was made of iPhones.

My first iPhone was stolen at gunpoint when the night bus I was traveling on through Chiapas, Mexico was hijacked. I accidentally left its replacement on a city bus in Bogotá, Colombia. I still have the third.

I had left Ireland to travel with my girlfriend for what ended up being about 20 months. We started in New York and were traveling slowly in the general direction of Buenos Aires. For the first year I’d stop from time to time to do a few days of contract work for clients back home, but that was getting more difficult to arrange without face to face meetings, and I had a thirst to start generating my own income rather than depending on clients.

In January 2010, I started to learn iPhone development. A month later I was filled with excitement as I began designing my first app. In August I released My Artists and it went pretty well. I made some money and I was well and truly hooked on the iPhone, not just as my phone of choice, but as a platform on which to build my career.

There are twists and turns to the years that followed but the general arc of what proceeded was established in those early days of the iPhone. After years of working alone, working with Pádraig now feels like a natural and inevitable progression. After years of developing for the web, building native software for Apple’s platforms is now at the heart of everything I do. I think of that Nokia 3210 that I tried to convince myself was sufficient in 2007, and I look on my work before Supertop in a similar way. It fulfilled its purpose at the time, but ultimately the best part was leaving it behind.

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