Countless details on the development of the original iPhone have been shared by various Apple employees in several different publications, but a new story on the creation of the phone’s first web browser has surfaced courtesy of Francisco Tolmasky, an early iPhone engineer who interviewed with The New York Times.
Tolmasky joined Apple when he was just 20 years old, working under Steve Jobs to create a mobile web browser for the original iPhone. Jobs regularly gave him feedback on his project, often sending Tolmasky back to the drawing board because his creation wasn’t “magical” enough.
“Steve was really adamant, where he said, ‘This needs to be like magic. Go back, this isn’t magical enough!'” Mr. Tolmasky said about his experience developing the mobile Safari app. “I remember being very frustrated. This was, like, an impossible task.”
Countless hours of work resulted in Safari for iPhone, which used WebKit to load web pages on a small screen and allowed users to interact with sites via pinches, swipes, and taps.
As with other accounts of the iPhone’s creation, Tolmasky details the intense security behind the project, explaining how the software team was split into sections focusing on web and apps. “Each one of these things is basically one person,” explained Tolmasky, speaking of the original iPhone apps.
In one anecdote, Tolmasky divulges the origin of the iPhone’s keyboard, which reportedly came about during a week-long hackathon where Jobs instructed the software team to work only on keyboard prototypes. The engineer who won the hackathon was assigned to the keyboard permanently.
According to Tolmasky, Apple’s original iPhone Maps app was a last minute addition to the device, as Jobs decided the app should be added just a few weeks before the smartphone was first introduced at the Macworld Expo in January of 2007. It only took his teammate, Chris Blumenberg, a week to have a workable prototype.
“Within a week he had something that was working, and in two weeks he had something to show at Macworld that we were showing,” Mr. Tolmasky said. “That was the kind of effect Steve could have on you: This is important, this needs to happen, and you do it.”
Tolmasky left Apple shortly after the original iPhone was released as the company no longer felt like a startup, and now he works as a mobile game designer. His most recent creation, Bonsai Slice, was released today. Tolmasky’s full interview and additional details on his game can be found in the original NYT piece.
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