Getting drunk at the iPhone demo

"It was just a mess, but it was great." New details on the birth of the smartphone

Published October 4, 2013 8:44PM (EDT)

Steve Jobs                   (AP/Paul Sakuma)
Steve Jobs (AP/Paul Sakuma)

It is no exaggeration to say that the excerpt of Fred Vogelstein's upcoming book, "Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution," published in Friday's New York Times, is more interesting and engaging than the entirety of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

By focusing on the technical struggle to create the iPhone, culminating in Jobs' masterful product demo at Macworld in January 2007, Vogelstein delivers insights into both Jobs' paranoia and his leadership skills that Isaacson told us about endlessly, but never really showed. Reading the excerpt, I was amazed all over again that something like the iPhone even exists. And for that, due credit must be given to Mr. Insanely Great.

But my favorite anecdote comes at the very end, as Vogelstein describes the frantically anxious state of mind of the iPhone engineers who were terrified that something would go wrong with the Macworld demo.

By the end, Grignon wasn’t just relieved; he was drunk. He’d brought a flask of Scotch to calm his nerves. “And so there we were in the fifth row or something — engineers, managers, all of us — doing shots of Scotch after every segment of the demo. There were about five or six of us, and after each piece of the demo, the person who was responsible for that portion did a shot. When the finale came — and it worked along with everything before it, we all just drained the flask. It was the best demo any of us had ever seen. And the rest of the day turned out to be just a [expletive] for the entire iPhone team. We just spent the entire rest of the day drinking in the city. It was just a mess, but it was great.”

It was just a mess, but it was great. A credo to live by!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Apple Dogfight Fred Vogelstein Iphone Macworld Smartphones Steve Jobs