What It Was Like To Create Apps For The First IPhone, According To An Ex-Apple Engineer

Many software engineers could only dream of working at a place like Apple. Francisco Tolmasky, however, was scouted out by the firm before he had even graduated from college.

Tomalsky, now 29, was recruited to work on a mobile Web browser for the original iPhone when he was 20 years old.

He played a major role in making sure Apple’s Safari Web browser worked smoothly on a smartphone, from ensuring that websites looked normal on a smaller screen to making sure touch, swipe and pinch gestures worked properly.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Tomalsky talked about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ methodology when it came to creating iPhone apps, saying the following:

Steve was really adamant. This needs to be like magic. Go back, this isn’t magical enough! I remember being very frustrated. This was, like, an impossible task.

Apple’s ridiculously high standards when it comes to product launches isn’t exactly news. But Tomalsky revealed some details about what it was like to work at the company around the time its first iPhone launched.

According to Tomalsky, the hardware and software teams worked in silos to prevent any secrets from leaking out. The software division, which is where Tomalsky worked, was split up into a Web team and an apps team.

Tomalsky told the Times that in the software section, each native iPhone app was basically assigned to one person. His territory was the mobile version of Safari.While each team member worked together on the general software for the first iPhone, each developer had his or her own section to lead.

Creating the keyboard, according to Tomalsky’s account, was a hackathon-like competition among employees. Jobs had been unhappy with the prototype keyboards he had seen so far, so he assigned everyone on the software team to solely work on keyboards for a week. When an engineer on Tomalsky’s team won, his full-time job became working on iPhone keyboards.

Jobs also demanded that the team create a Maps app for the first iPhone back in 2007. Another engineer on his team, Chris Blumenberg, was given this task to be finished in time for Macworld in January 2007, Tomalsky told the Times:

Within a week he had something that was working, and in two weeks he had something to show at Macworld that we were showing. That was the kind of effect Steve could have ion you: This is important, this needs to happen, and you do it.

Tomalsky left Apple in late 2007 because the company began to feel less like a startup after the iPhone became a hit. He currently focuses on his own mobile gaming startup.

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