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Apple is the new NASA

When I was a kid, the future was filled with optimism. The year 2000 was 10-20 years away and it was this magical goal we were working towards. I was obsessed with astronauts, especially those in NASA that got to ride in the space shuttle. While I never made it to spacecamp, I envied the kids that did.

Then the shuttle blew up, the year 2000 passed without flying cars, and 9/11 sparked another world war. Leaders talked about the past, not the future. Optimism was dead.

I never stopped looking for that optimistic future. It’s something every tech nerd craves and I think that’s why we got into the technology field to start with: to make the world better. Anyway, today I realized why I transformed from longtime skeptic of Apple computer to total fanboy in the past three years.

Apple creates technology that makes things better. Portable music, wireless networking, laptops, photos on your digital camera, video on your camcorder, movies on your TV, and now the dreaded cellphone. These are all things that have been a hassle for some time.

I don’t know a single person that likes the phone they have. Everyone feels like a victim of both their phone plan and their phone hardware. Cellphones seem to be one of those things that barely works given all the drawbacks. The iPhone isn’t just a new gadget. It looks like something that will transform the way we think about cellphones.

Today I realized the feeling of optimism that I held dear when I was a kid — that everything was going to work out and be better for everyone when I got older — isn’t captured by the folks at NASA anymore. It’s the people at Apple that provide that.


  1. Interesting post Matt.
    When John Mayer took the stage after Steve was done speaking he made a comment something to the effect of “Apple is the opposite of terrorism, thank for making life more fun”

  2. It’s easier and cheaper to do what they do at Apple than what we do in manned spaceflight. Maybe Apple can buoy people for awhile while we get back out of low-Earth orbit.

  3. I’m such an Appple fanboy. When did that happen? You’re right — their products are just exciting.

  4. I meant to add in my original post that yeah, it’s kind of sad that a commercial company selling overpriced gadgets is the only source I can find of optimism, but there’s not a lot of other people saying and showing how tomorrow will be better, is there?

  5. We’re, um, going back to the moon, and then to Mars.
    Mind you, I’ll be in my late 40s when it happens, but … we’re going. 😉
    [Really, I got nothin’.]

  6. “I meant to add in my original post that yeah, it’s kind of sad that a commercial company selling overpriced gadgets is the only source I can find of optimism”
    Well, then, my work here is done before I started. Still I understand what you mean, and I feel it too, and if I do feel a bit infantile sometimes for getting excited over new software or gadgets (which I almost never actually buy), I do feel the occasional burst of optimism about Weightier Matters. Very occasional.
    I think it’s mostly a matter of just getting old.
    “Apple is the opposite of terrorism”
    Just like cheese is the opposite of kryptonite, or neoclassical philosophy is the opposite of my mom. Doesn’t make no sense any way I peer at it.

  7. Stavros, it makes more sense if you try restating it with other things that are sweet/terrible.
    Like “Bubble baths are the opposite of suffering”

  8. You know, I *did* go to Space Camp. And I think I’m more excited about the iPhone than I ever was about space.
    Maybe I was never that excited about space travel itself, I was just enthralled with the Cutting Edge of Cool Ideas. That would explain why I’ve ended up passionate about the web and about design – it’s one place where Cool Ideas touch our lives directly.
    Can’t put the space shuttle in your pocket.

  9. Two years ago, I took steps to stop being a victim to my cell phone and received an unlocked Nokia Series 60 smart phone. Since then I have purchased online a Nokia N80 that is unlocked.
    I have the choice of carriers and plans. I get the phone I want with the features I want, but I do have to make an investment.
    The investment I made this last summer for the N80 is $62 less than the iPhone will be new. It has a better camera and lens (3 megapixels with a distance and close up switch feature).
    The big difference between the iPhone and the Nokia NSeries phones are the UI and the touch screen feature.
    But more than UI or screens the thing that we need to do as consumers is to encourage our favorite device manufacturers to make the best devices possible that are carrier agnostic. Would we buy our cars from Chevron or our gas from Toyota?
    Thus, the big downfall of the iPhone as announced today is the 2 year Cingular contract. Why get locked into a 2 year contract for a phone that has a 2 mega-pixel camera and given Apple’s track record will have its replacement out next year or sooner?

  10. I like my cell phone. Then again, I don’t expect it to do my taxes or anything. I just talk to people with it.

  11. You can’t watch movies on my phone, but you can fit three of them in the space of one iBrick. (And buy three of them for what the iBrick costs.)
    Sure, it’s cool. But not being weighed down by all that gear is pretty cool, too.

  12. I like my treo too.
    I hope the iPhone is as good as it looked in thhe keynote because I’ve been jonesing for a decent web tablet for years. A device that I can keep with me all the time, which can carry all my books, some movies, some music, and all my portable data, and which also has internet access? It sounds like heaven.
    My big worry is that, at least in my area, Cingular is the one carrier that everyone I know loathes. They seem to have the crappiest coverage and the worst call quality of any of the major carriers. And this is in NYC.

  13. I want to be a fan of this phone, but the battery life looks to be a problem. Anything but talking severely effects the battery life. I have a feeling people are going to be disappointed in the battery life if they forget to charge the phone.

  14. I love my Treo 650. It does phone, email, camera, web, mp3 player.
    It does however amuse me to see such collective hysteria in the community. I mean, really it is so far a disappointing product isn’t it? I’d rather he announced money and commitment to improving customer support for existing devices – unless I missed something.

  15. I feel exactly the same way about Apple, except my transformation to what you might call a fanboy happened about three days ago, when I bought my first Mac (MacBook). I don’t know if I’m a fanboy, but Apple makes good products, and I support good products regardless of their creator.

  16. “I don’t know a single person that likes the phone they have.”
    OK, you don’t know me, but I LOVE my Samsung SCH-A530s. So much so that I went out of my way to get one right after they’d been discontinued, and I’m now on my second one a few years later. It’s wicked small (not *quite* as thin as a RAZR, but smaller otherwise and not nearly as fragile). It has no camera (on purpose), no MP3 player, and though I suppose I could play games on it using GetItNow, I’ve never had any desire to try. It has great battery life. Oh, and it does one other thing, too – it sends and receives telephone calls – very well, I might add. That seems to be almost an afterthought these days. It’ll be a sad day when I’ve beat the hell out of this one and am forced to get something else. And yes – Apple makes good stuff, too.

  17. Matt, you’re cold trippin. Movies on TV are a “hassle”? Photos on digital cameras are a “hassle”? I think you must be doing it wrong…

  18. Jimbob, getting movies downloaded and onto your TV isn’t an easy thing to do for non-techies. Getting photos off your digital camera is actually pretty tough and seems to block most of my family from enjoying their cameras. I have a relative that simply takes photos and never downloads them off the camera. They just use the camera’s review function to look at them months later due to the difficulty of various usb cables, camera drivers, camera software, and archiving methods.
    iTunes Store/AppleTV and iPhoto in these examples make that painless.

  19. Still, they do it on a closed platform and while incurring a significant investment.
    Jobs stated in the NY Times that people will want this closed environment “so it’ll just work” but when Microsoft uses these same arguments to defend work on Windows and Office they get burned at the stake for it. [I’m a Mac user by the way]
    I like the interface of the iPhone (and the innovative way it handles stuff like call merging / putting people on hold, which I never got my head around on my SE T630) but the only way the iPhone would be feasible for me is with a no-worries-flat-fee internet package.
    As things stand now, here in The Netherlands you’d have to sell your first born to get that. The plan structures phone companies employ are hair-tearingly complicated.
    Since the phone will only arrive in Q4 over here, I hope Apple decides to put some 3G technology in it at that time. I cannot justify buying something on an expensive two-year plan if it’s got ancient 2nd generation networking in it.
    Maybe other phonemakers in the mean time will get the message that they need to simplify their phones. From LG, SE, Nokia, Samsung… they all use different menu’s, sometimes even between phones of the same brand. It’s madness!
    When someone cracks the AppleTV (Jon Lech Johansen, you listening?) I’ll probably get one.
    Love the quote about 2000. I can remember hoping that we’d have flying cars by then. Still, 2015 is the year, Spielberg promised!

  20. Apple is Apple not because of its functionality or inovation.. Apple is Apple and their stuff is “cool” because thats how they market it. They are marketing geniuses. I bought a phone about 2 years ago that could play mp3s was completely touch screen, did GPS Navigation and held about 500mb of data (keep in mind this was 2 years ago). It did EVERYTHING! I loved it, until I realized it doesn’t have a keyboard.. so I dropped it and went with a phone that does have a keyboard.. the T-Mobile MDA. I love it, its not to big, its battery life is really good and it has a slide out keyboard, the thing is amazing. I just wish it had a little more processing power. Once you go keyboard, you never go back.

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