Surprises, small and big

OK, look, I know think pieces about Apple belong on Medium, but just watch video of the iPhone launch in 2007. The bit where Steve demos the ‘slide to unlock’ (15:14), and there’s an audible intake of breath from the audience. And then again, later, with the ‘pinch to zoom’ (33:22).

(It’s also a really funny presentation! I forgot how light hearted they used to be.)

The first iPhone astounded me, because it felt like something from 2-3 years in future. At the time, multitouch screens were reserved for table top projection surfaces (Microsoft’s original Surface project, for example), and while it seemed clear that it was going to be an important form of interaction in the future, every other device on the market had a physical keyboard or a stylus.

I didn’t even know multitouch technology was capable of being shrunk to that size, for that price. Apple had managed to not only make it happen, but had orchestrated their supply chain into producing millions of them, leaving the rest of the phone industry dumbfounded. And due to their exclusivity contracts, it would take years before they truly caught up. Incredible.

Satellite View of GCHQ Bude

It’s summer 2013, and the Snowden leaks are in full swing. All the geeks will tell you that they expected it all along, but they’re lying. No-one expected it to be that fierce, that pervasive, that explicit.

The culmination of it, for me, was when we learnt that GCHQ intercepts and stores all transatlantic network communications through their intercept station in Bude, Cornwall.

The story isn’t clear at first. All of it? That can’t possibly be right. But yes, that turns out to be 21 petabytes a day, over a rolling 3 day buffer. Around 60+ petabytes at any one time.

Storing it I can fathom – just about. You need lots of space, lots of disks, lots of money, and I guess they get a volume discount. But searching it in real-time too? Huh.