back to article Fake History Alert: Sorry BBC, but Apple really did invent the iPhone

You've heard of "Fake News" – but how does Fake History gradually supersede the reality-based version? It's through repetition, and Christmas found the BBC busy doing some scrubbing. The proposition it set about is simple: Apple didn't really invent the iPhone. From Oxford, inventor and engineer Andrew Fentem writes to take …

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  1. TRT Silver badge

    Does that mean...

    that Mazzucato and her research is a product of the state?

    1. YARR

      Mariana seems to be confusing the innovator who created the idea with who owns the intellectual property rights. The Soviet Union owned Tetris but they acknowledged that Alexey Pajitnov invented it.

      States and corporations represent the people who own them: shareholders or taxpayers respectively. Funding innovation gives you ownership rights but doesn't make you the innovator.

    2. Oh Homer
      Headmaster

      The point stands

      It remains a fact that most of the technology that Apple benefits from, and indeed most of today's technology, only exists because of government funding. Not just "state schools" but actual government funded research. The fact that this research was conducted by individuals does not somehow alter the fact that those individuals were paid by the state to do state-funded research on state-owned equipment in state-owned facilities. These facts are supported by well-documented history [*], not merely the opinions of a single observer to that history.

      The reason for this is not difficult to deduce. The private sector only has one motive: profit. That means it is intrinsically unwilling to take risks. Genuinely new technology is unproven by definition, and therefore anyone with a purely financial motive will be unwilling to risk capital pursuing it, indeed the private sector actually has a legal obligation not to take such risks with investor capital. This means that the private sector is fundamentally antithetical to innovation.

      The state, meanwhile, has other motives. That doesn't mean those motives are necessarily more noble, but they are not entirely financial either. One of the biggest is military supremacy, and that single obsession is probably responsible for more genuine innovation than any other throughout history, for better or worse.

      It's ironic that the same pro-capitalist arguments that have us living in caves if we abandon capitalism, are equally applicable to anti-statism, in fact probably more so. The private sector excels at taking state-funded technology and making it look pretty, but not much else. Does that really qualify as "innovation"? Well, only if your definition of "innovation" is money.

      [*] "NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

      The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare."

      1. deconstructionist

        Re: The point stands

        the point is flat on it's back just like the sophistic reply.

        Lets take apples first machines they copied the mouse from Olivetti , they took the OS look from a rank XEROX engineers work, the private sector take risks and plagiarize when they can, but the missing person here is the amateur, take the BBS private individuals designed, built and ran it was the pre cursor to the net and a lot of .com company's like AOL and CompuServe where born there.

        And the poor clarity in the BBC article is mind numbing, the modern tech industry has the Fairchild camera company as it's grand daddy which is about as far from federal or state intervention and innovation as you can get .

        Deconstructionism only works when you understand the brief and use the correct and varied sources not just one crackpot seeking attention.

        1. Oh Homer
          Facepalm

          Re: Fairchild

          You mean the same Fairchild that owed its very existence to highly lucrative military contracts?

          If you're going to cherry-pick examples to discredit the significance of state funded innovation, it might be a good idea to try to pick one that wasn't actually state funded.

          1. deconstructionist

            Re: Fairchild

            Fairchild's innovation and design are the egg the contracts are the chicken, timelines always confuse deconstructionists, it was the innovation in transistors that led to government contracts not the other way about ....so your point is vapid.

            take the micro processor which one of Fairchild's children "Intel" designed was to do with calculators for the mass market nothing to do with military contract that came after, so if you're going to make a counter point take the 3 step rule

            think

            check

            type .

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: The point stands

        I'm sure you have many valid points, but I don't think this is one of them:

        "The reason for this is not difficult to deduce. The private sector only has one motive: profit. That means it is intrinsically unwilling to take risks."

        Typically it is the complete opposite.

        Yes, tax payer money does fund research, typically in a university setting.

        Such research is often 1) WIthin very confined remit. 2) Poorly funded. 3) Politically driven. 4) Performed by not the best. 5) Separated from the real world.

        I'd say that most innovation happens funded by venture capital outside of state sponsored activities.

  2. Spleenmeister

    Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

    The BBC spreading fake news? Colour me shocked

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

      BBC Journalists knowing sweet FA about technology. Colour me shocked. But to be honest quibbling with such an obvious puff piece is a bit of the level of handbags at dawn.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

      > Colour me shocked.

      You missed the icon here.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. luminous
    FAIL

    Optional

    Calls out someone for not being impartial then refers to searching the internet by using Google as a verb....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      I can only find one instance of "Google" which is in the quoted letter.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      > by using Google as a verb....

      Goggle spokesperson, I presume?

  5. Notas Badoff

    Was it delicious served cold?

    "... but I would therefore have three suggestions as to how the situation might be rectified: ..." I see "publish an apology and retraction", and I see "BBC could publish another article" ...

    What was his third suggestion? Oh I do wonder...

    Was it unprintable, though "... things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective"?

    1. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: Was it delicious served cold?

      Yeah, I noticed that too. I figured it was my own inability to count to three due to my American public education.

  6. luminous
    FAIL

    Impartiality

    Calls out someone for not being impartial... then refers to searching the internet by using "Google" as a verb...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Impartiality

      "Calls out someone for not being impartial... then refers to searching the internet by using "Google" as a verb..."

      So what? Hoover, Sellotape etc.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Re: Impartiality

        Xerox. Kleenex. Scotch tape.

        ...Crapper.

    2. Anonymous IV
      FAIL

      Re: Impartiality

      @luminous

      That's the second post you've made on this matter - with the same text!

      If you're attempting to restrict the word 'Google' to being a noun, I'm afraid that train left many years ago.

      From SearchEngineWatch: "29 Jun 2006 - “Google” is now officially a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. Google already is a verb in some other dictionaries, but the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is considered the most authoritative dictionary of the English language."

  7. jaduncan

    Ironically, neither party mentions LG.

  8. Gruntled

    Who really invented the iPhone?

    Everyone knows that it was Shiva Ayyadurai, right after he invented email.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Who really invented the iPhone?

      Happens a lot. For example, X-ray was actually invented in the 14th century by a Russian peasant called Ivan Sosnov. He frequently yelled at his wife "I can see you through, you bitch!"

  9. MR J

    Uhhhh

    Seeing how much free advertising the BBC has given Apple over the years I doubt they will care.

    And lets be honest here, the guy is kinda correct. We didn't just go from a dumb phone to a smart phone, there was a gradual move towards it as processing power was able to be increased and electronic packages made smaller. Had we gone from the old brick phones straight to an iPhone then I would agree that they owned something like TNT.

    Did Apple design the iPhone - Yes, of course.

    Did Apple invent the Smart Phone - Nope.

    IBM had a touch screen "smart" phone in 1992 that had a square screen with rounded corners.

    What Apple did was put it into a great package with a great store behind it and they made sure it worked - and worked well. I personally am not fond of Apple due to the huge price premium they demand and overly locked down ecosystems, but I will admit it was a wonderful product Design.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Uhhhh

      There wasn't even a great app store at the beginning. It was more of a feature phone with something new (a touch screen).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uhhhh

      I personally am not fond of Apple because they produce fashion items and rely and encourage on "Oh, that's LAST YEARS iToy" <shock, gasp, sneer> from their iPeople to get the userbase to upgrade, rather than what I consider a more usual upgrade path.

      I do my best to ignore the whole fashion thing, and the people involved. Personally I prefer intellectual pursuits and the discussion of ideas, as opposed to drink, drugs, fashion and the discussion of celebrities. From my point of view, iThings seem to be more of a symbol of the latter than the former.

      1. Alistair
        Pint

        Re: Uhhhh

        @AC

        I like to get dressed up all fancy ass, get seriously seriously hammered on rum, and have long intellectual conversations with my good friends and my dog about all sorts of things, including pretentious holier than thou celebrities.

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    In a State

    Based on Mazzucato's thinking, if anyone educated by the State creates anything of note and one disregards any subsequent influences on them, they owe the State, then that should apply equally to anyone who becomes a criminnal/terrorist/paedo etc because they were educated by the State and it should reap the benefits/blame for it's education and guidance.

    1. Mike Moyle

      Re: In a State

      Does it follow from Ms Mazzucato's thesis that someone educated at the public expense who later goes out and kills someone is committing state-sponsored terrorism?

  11. Bronek Kozicki
    Meh

    News organization with an agenda

    Well, what a surprise.

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    Invention of iPhone

    It wasn't even really an invention.

    The BBC frequently "invents" tech history. They probably think MS and IBM created personal computing, when in fact they held it back for 10 years and destroyed innovating companies then.

    The only significant part was the touch interface by Fingerworks.

    I was reading a BBC news web article and it was wrong too. It missed out emphasising that the real reason for success in 2007 was the deals with operators, cheap high cap data packages, often bundled with iPhone from the Mobile Operator.

    This is nonsense:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38550016

    "Those were the days, by the way, when phones were for making calls but all that was about to change."

    Actually if you had a corporate account, you had a phone already with email, Apps, ability to read MS Office docs, web browser and even real Fax send/receive maybe 5 or 6 years before the iPhone. Apart from an easier touch interface, the pre-existing phones had more features like copy/paste, voice control and recording calls.

    The revolution was ordinary consumers being able to have a smart phone AND afford the data. The actual HW was commodity stuff. I had the dev system for the SC6400 Samsung ARM cpu used it.

    Why did other phones use resistive + stylus instead of capacitive finger touch?

    1) Apple Newton and Palm: Handwriting & annotation. Needs high resolution.

    2) Dominance of MS CE interface (only usable with with a high resolution stylus.

    The capacitive touch existed in the late 1980s, but "holy grail" was handwriting recognition, not gesture control, though Xerox and IIS both had worked on it and guestures were defined before the 1990s. So the UK guy didn't invent anything.

    Also irrelevant.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38552241

    Mines the one with a N9110 and later N9210 in the pocket. The first commercial smart phone was 1998 and crippled by high per MByte or per second (or both!) charging. Also in 2002, max speed was often 28K, but then in 2005 my landline was still 19.2K till I got Broadband, though I had 128K in 1990s in the city (ISDN) before I moved.

    1. xeroks

      Re: Invention of iPhone

      The ground breaking elements of the iPhone were all to do with usability:

      The fixed price data tariff was - to me - the biggest innovation. It may have been the hardest to do, as it involved entrenched network operators in a near monopoly. The hardware engineers only had to deal with the laws of physics.

      The apple store made it easy to purchase and install apps and media. Suddenly you didn't have to be a geek or an innovator to make your phone do something useful or fun that the manufacturer didn't want to give to everyone.

      The improved touch interface, the styling, and apple's cache all helped, and, I assume, fed into the efforts to persuade the network operators to give the average end user access to data without fear.

      1. imaginarynumber

        Re: Invention of iPhone

        "The fixed price data tariff was - to me - the biggest innovation".

        In my experience, the iphone killed the "all you can eat" fixed price data tariffs

        I purchased a HTC Athena (T-Mobile Ameo) on a T-Mobile-Web and Walk contract in Feb 2007. I had unlimited 3.5G access (including tethering) and fixed call minutes/texts.

        When it was time to upgrade, I was told that iphone 3G users were using too much data and that T-Mobile were no longer offering unlimited internet access.

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Invention of iPhone

        "The apple store made it easy to purchase and install apps and media. Suddenly you didn't have to be a geek or an innovator to make your phone do something useful or fun that the manufacturer didn't want to give to everyone."

        And update the software/os!

        I remember what an absolute nightmare it was to update my Nokia, not to mention trying to find any usable app at all. And trying to keep purchased apps available for the future was impossible.

        Unlike Apple's ecosystem.

        People just don't remember how bad it was before Apple changed everything, and Google copied them.

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Invention of iPhone

      "Those were the days, by the way, when phones were for making calls but all that was about to change."

      I remember having a motorola A920 way back in 2003/2004 maybe, and on that I made video calls, went online, had a touch interface, ran 'apps', watched videos.... in fact I could do everything the iPhone could do and more... BUT it was clunky and the screen was not large... the iPhone was a nice step forward in many ways but also a step back in functionality

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Invention of iPhone

        Some lovely lady who used to work at Apple Education lent me an iPod for the day whilst she worked on some finance deal with our college. The big HDD based one that was an early pre-production model. It was the next big thing she said. The portable Minidisc killer. When she got back and asked me what I thought I said "Meh. Now if it had an FM receiver in it as well..." She said there was a WiFi connecting version in the pipeline and that FM was going to be dead in a few years, to be replaced by Digital Radio and radio over the WiFi. I scoffed and said good luck.

    3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "First smartphone"

      For fun, I put "first smartphone" into Google. It wasn't Apple's. I think a BBC editor may have temporarily said that it was.

      As for Apple inventing the first multitouch smartphone, though -

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38552241 claims, with some credibility, that Apple's engineers wanted to put a keyboard on their phone. The Blackberry phone had a keyboard. But Steve Jobs wanted a phone that you could work with your finger (without a keyboard).

      One finger.

      If you're only using one finger, you're not actually using multi touch?

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: "First smartphone"

        "One finger.

        If you're only using one finger, you're not actually using multi touch?"

        It's optional, smartass.

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

    If I admit that that point of view is justified, that can only be if the article is clearly labelled as an opinion piece, and projects that fact unambiguously.

    I am no fan of Apple, but to state that something was invented by the State because everyone involved went to state-funded school is a kindergarten-level of thinking that has no place in reasoned argument.

    The only good thing I take from this article is the knowledge that whatever I hear or read from someone signed Harford and/or Mazzucato is something that I should take with a heavy load of salt.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

      "I am no fan of Apple, but to state that something was invented by the State because everyone involved went to state-funded school is a kindergarten-level of thinking that has no place in reasoned argument."

      Everything from kindergarten to university is NOT state funded - it is tax payer funded. So you are correct to say that argument is wrong, but even if it was right, it would still be wrong.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

      "I am no fan of Apple, but to state that something was invented by the State because everyone involved went to state-funded school is a kindergarten-level of thinking that has no place in reasoned argument."

      It's actually "Intellectual Yet Idiot" level thinking. Google it. Your right that arguments of this sort of calibre have no place in reasoned argument, but the presence of this sort of quality thinking being shoved down peoples throats by media is why a hell of a lot of people are "fed up with experts".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

        "Your right that arguments of this sort of calibre have no place in reasoned argument, but the presence of this sort of quality thinking being shoved down peoples throats by media is why a hell of a lot of people are "fed up with experts"."

        Is it? Your so right.

  14. TonyJ Silver badge

    Hmmm....iPhone 1.0

    I actually got one of these for my wife.

    It was awful. It almost felt like a beta product (and these are just a few of things I still remember):

    It had no kind of face sensor so it was common for the user to disconnect mid-call via their chin or cheek;

    It's autocorrect functions were terrible - tiny little words above the word in question and even tinier x to close the option;

    Inability to forward messages;

    No email support;

    No apps.

    I think it's reasonably fair to say that it was the app store that really allowed the iPhone to become so successful, combined with the then Apple aura and mystique that Jobs was bringing to their products.

    As to who invented this bit or that bit - I suggest you could pull most products released in the last 10-20 years and have the same kind of arguments.

    But poor show on the beeb for their lack of fact checking on this one.

    1. Andy Taylor

      Re: Hmmm....iPhone 1.0

      The original iPhone definitely has a proximity sensor. It is possible that your wife's phone was faulty or there was a software issue.

      If anyone has an original iPhone running iOS 1.x, please let me know.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm....iPhone 1.0

        "...The original iPhone definitely has a proximity sensor. It is possible that your wife's phone was faulty or there was a software issue...."

        Have an upvote - hers definitely never worked (and at the time I didn't even know it was supposed to be there), so yeah, probably faulty. I'd just assumed it didn't have one.

  15. spider from mars

    I don't really see what the fuss is about

    I listened to the podcast - the title was a bit hyperbolic, but the actual content of the program seemed uncontroversial.

  16. Spender
    FAIL

    I can't think of a single invention that doesn't stand on the shoulders of previous inventions. Following this through to its logical conclusion, one might be tempted to think that nothing has been invented for millions of years. Hmm..

    1. Jeffrey Nonken

      I too have watched Connections many times. Also The Day The Universe Changed.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For balance

    Can we please have an article stating the BBC is wonderful and never lies??

    Oh, sorry, just noticed you already have!!!!

  18. John Miles 1

    Tim Harford

    Sad to see someone like Tim Harford being seduced the the publicity that a 'startling revelation' produces. Perhaps he should stick to seeing where the facts lead rather than following the most headline grabbing path.

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