Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Original iPhone Demo

Fred Vogelstein (2013, via Hacker News):

The software in the iPhone’s Wi-Fi radio was so unstable that Grignon and his team had to extend the phones’ antennas by connecting them to wires running offstage so the wireless signal wouldn’t have to travel as far. And audience members had to be prevented from getting on the frequency being used. “Even if the base station’s ID was hidden” — that is, not showing up when laptops scanned for Wi-Fi signals — “you had 5,000 nerds in the audience,” Grignon says. “They would have figured out how to hack into the signal.” The solution, he says, was to tweak the AirPort software so that it seemed to be operating in Japan instead of the United States. Japanese Wi-Fi uses some frequencies that are not permitted in the U.S.


Then, with Jobs’s approval, they preprogrammed the phone’s display to always show five bars of signal strength regardless of its true strength. The chances of the radio’s crashing during the few minutes that Jobs would use it to make a call were small, but the chances of its crashing at some point during the 90-minute presentation were high. “If the radio crashed and restarted, as we suspected it might, we didn’t want people in the audience to see that,” Grignon says. “So we just hard-coded it to always show five bars.”

None of these kludges fixed the iPhone’s biggest problem: it often ran out of memory and had to be restarted if made to do more than a handful of tasks at a time. Jobs had a number of demo units onstage with him to manage this problem. If memory ran low on one, he would switch to another while the first was restarted.

Ben Thompson:

The part of the Gemini announcement that drew the most attention did not have anything to do with infrastructure or data: what everyone ended up talking about was the company’s Gemini demo, and the fact it wasn’t representative of Gemini’s actual capabilities.


Google, given its long-term advantages in this space, would have been much better served in being transparent, particularly since it suddenly finds itself with a trustworthiness advantage relative to Microsoft and OpenAI. The goal for the company should be demonstrating competitiveness and competence; a fake demo did the opposite.


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Sorry but I don’t see the connection. Apple went really far to show the iPhone in the best light, including showing fake wifi bars, but everything that they showed was doable, realtime, and done on device. The competition thought it was fake, that’s how good it was, but it wasn’t, and more importantly they shipped. Google has the habit of completely faking demos (remember the AI making calls for you?) and then just hoping everyone forgets about it.

@Enrico It seems that the Wi-Fi connection itself was fake, but no one cares because the software was fixed before it shipped. But, yes, definitely more real than what Google did (unless it ends up working this way when they ship).

Wrt Google Duplex (the phonecalling chatbot) it was released in the US and worked as demoed.

I doubt the same will be true of Gemini.

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