WATCH: The iPhone turns 10 but the history of smartphones dates back nearly a century

A decade after arrival of Apple's smartphone, author Brian Merchant explains why we can't live without such devices


Alli Joseph
June 29, 2017 4:00PM (UTC)
This "Salon Talks" video was produced by Kevin Carlin
Brian Merchant, an editor for Vice's Motherboard, spent the past year traveling the world. During that time his wife had a baby, but across many continents he was working on another one: This month it was born: "One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone," his new book, about the history and development of the very Apple device from which many people have become inseparable. Merchant aimed to examine the technology of the iPhone, as well as the surrounding labor practices and economics, apart from the consumer mythology and the culture that sprang up with this early smartphone. He even used an iPhone to create his book, snapping some 8,000 photos, logging more than 200 hours of interviews and taking his notes. Merchant shared his insights on a recent episode of "Salon Talks just few days before the iPhone's 10th birthday on Thursday, June 29.
Why is the 10th anniversary of the iPhone significant?

The iPhone is one of those things that just kind of seamlessly insinuated itself into our lives. It's not something that's like maybe nuclear power was like 50 years ago, where we're like, "Whoa, this is insane!" It's just kind of something that is just kind of like, It's a cornerstone of my daily life. It's something that I do every day; it's something that I couldn't get through my day without anymore. It's just sort of become a sort of digital appendage that we just carry around with us. It's tweaked and transformed so many of those little sort of social functions and forms. There's really few areas that it has left untouched.

 Is it your "one device"?

It's definitely my one device. I've used it religiously throughout this thing. But I think . . . we're at the point past where we are big fans of it. There are certainly some big fan bases where people really want to upgrade and pay attention to the new features and all that stuff. But for a lot of us, we're past the point whether we like it. It just is. It is the thing that we use to facilitate our daily lives.

Watch more of the conversation with Merchant on Salon about this game-changing tool.


Alli Joseph

Alli Joseph is a writer/producer and family historian; a Native New Yorker, she is a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

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