Ten Years Later, The iPhone Owns Us

By Virginia Heffernan
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Brian Merchant argues in his new book, “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone.” Merchant calls the adoption of the iPhone a “rapid, civilization-scale transformation.”

Los Angeles Times

Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January, 2007, before an adoring congregation, in his signature “Sermon on the Mount” style.

On June 29, it became available to the public. Ten years later, the phone has spread like Christianity. The device represents “the pinnacle product of all capitalism,” as Brian Merchant argues in his new book, “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone.” Merchant calls the adoption of the iPhone a “rapid, civilization-scale transformation.”

Happy birthday, iPhone. Time for a return to its origins.

In the stage show that introduces the phone, Jobs has no doubt he’s making history. The Apple logo is rendered, tall as a man, in what looks like onyx ganache.

Jobs stands on the dais, haloed in the logo’s glow. He explains the novelty of touch-screen scrolling. He flashes the album art from Green Day’s “American Idiot.” He plays a good-luck voicemail from Al Gore. He speaks of magic, of revolution.

And, then, at length, he talks smack about the horrible Blackberry buttons, which he intends to make obsolete with the glabrous minimalism of the iPhone.

Yes, glabrous: “having a surface without hairs or projections.” Merchant doesn’t use the word in his book, which chronicles his search for what he calls “the soul of the iPhone.” But glabrous may be the perfect way to describe the pinnacle fetish of capitalism. I heard it first from Marina Warner, the British mythographer, in a lecture she gave that likened the iPhone to Venus de Milo and depilated porn actors. Those idealized female forms, she said, look and feel alien, the way the iPhone does, and all three suggest that terrestrial humans, in our stubborn hairiness, chronically fall short.

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