On June 29, 2007 the iPhone went on sale for the very first time. It's hard to think of it now, but back then it was only available in one country (America) on one carrier (AT&T) and it sold for a whopping $599 for the 8GB version. As fascinated as I was by the device, I paid little attention to its launch because I lived in Canada so there was no chance I'd own one and was unlikely to see one in the flesh for several months.
My birthday was the day before the iPhone launch and in the run up to my big day John & Carol gave me a series of riddles written on paper stuffed in envelopes as "gifts".
"It's better than chocolate but you can't eat it."
"It's smoother than a razor."
"It can bark, but it's not a dog."
This would've been weird, save for the fact that both John and Carol were giddy with excitement about something. John has an amazing grin and wonderful laugh when he's being tricky and that week both were in full display every time he'd pass me one of those riddles. On the day the iPhone launched, John and Carol gave me an envelope with yet another piece of paper in it. Fully expecting another riddle, I was shocked to open it and see a photo of an iPhone with "Thanks for all your I.T. help and Happy Birthday!" written on it.
My head raced with excitement, my stomach churned, my mind was stuck and words wouldn't come out. "Is this a joke?" I blustered. It turned out it wasn't a joke. John and Carol had asked some friends of theirs to line up in the States to purchase three iPhones on the day of the launch and then mail them up to Canada for us.
I. Was. Stunned.
You better believe the days between finding out I had been bought an iPhone and the day it arrived were some of the longest days of my life! I remember calling FedEx to see if we could expedite them but given they were bought and shipped on a Friday, the earliest they could get them to us was Tuesday. But oh, what a Tuesday that was.
Looking back, I'm kind of shocked that John and Carol bought three phones they knew wouldn't work in Canada. I remember asking them what we'd do if we couldn't use them. Worryingly, they had complete confidence I would somehow get them working. Remember, these phones wouldn't activate without an AT&T account on a 2 year contract. The iPhones would turn on, for sure, but would stay stuck at a "locked" screen until authorized by one of AT&T's servers. You couldn't even use it as a device sans phone like the iPod Touch that came later. Without contracts and AT&T authorization, John and Carol would have spent close to $2,000 on really pretty paper weights. Undaunted they were confident I could get them working.
Sure! New technology that I had never seen before (nor had anyone outside of Apple's engineers at this point!) with so many unknown variables involved, dealing with an international telecom company that had no services in Canada and with no real experience to draw from. Piece of cake.
Whether it was their confidence and expectation, sheer luck, the kindness of God or a fluke in AT&T's system - I don't know - but within 30 minutes of us unwrapping these stunning little devices we had them activated!
Without an AT&T contract.
I felt like I had pulled of the world's greatest hack! In reality it was pretty simple. As part of the setup of the iPhone, AT&T requested a social security number. When I entered my Canadian social security number, and they in turn tried to look that up against their US database, the system balked and dropped me out of the carrier account setup in iTunes and instead offered me a sort of pay as you go month to month option. After a one time payment of $50 the phones would "turn on" to the home screen and we were good to go. We had thus gotten past the first hurdle and could now use our phones as glorious widescreen iPods with touch controls and internet communication devices. We connected them to the WiFi network in the house and spent the next hour or so exploring the interface and operating system. Using multi-touch for the first time was like magic. It was rare to find something so exquisite in both form and function. The quality of the device in your hand was matched by the software in the device.
But we weren't content! We all hopped in the car and drove to Niagara Falls so we could pick up AT&T's network signal from across the border to test the cellular part of the phone. (While browsing through old hard drives a few weeks ago, I found a video from that day. Look at the joy!)
Of course in a few months time, real hackers had figured out a way to jailbreak the phone and unlock the device so it could be used with any carrier in the world. I remember sitting in the lounge of the London Heathrow Sheraton typing arcane commands into my terminal.app praying I wasn't going to brick my phone. After 20 minutes or so, I had successfully unlocked my iPhone. I popped my UK SIM card into the phone and voilà! I had phone service. In those days, AJ and I travelled all over the world and so we carried SIM cards for the countries we frequented most. We had SIM cards for the UK, Canada, USA, Norway, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand all kept in a tiny little wallet with a paperclip. The iPhone was a perfect companion for world travelers; it was unheard of to have one device with all your information that would globally connect in every country we visited.
The iPhone is amazing. It has proved to be a life saver on so many occasions. It's my Bible, my journal, my music, my camera, my entertainment, my keep-the-kids-quiet-at-the-restaurant device and my wind down tool. It's my link to the outside world, my video phone to family back in Scotland and dear friends around the world. It's quite simply one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given and one I remain exceptionally grateful for to this day.
Which brings us to today. Apple's latest version, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, has been released. Millions of people will be delighted, some for the first time, by this incredible feat of engineering and production. But for me, I return to the day after my birthday, seven years ago when I was blown away by the goodness of God demonstrated for me by John & Carol when I got something I wasn't even dreaming for.
What's your iPhone? What is it that you are not dreaming for because it's too impractical and too unlikely. If I know God, He's likely hatching a plan to delight and surprise you in a manner that's perfectly tuned to your heart. Today awaken an expectation for God to be good to you in unusual ways. Happy iPhone day people.
The obscure riddles, in hindsight were a tease. "It's better than chocolate but you can't eat it" was a joke at the expense of the LG Chocolate. "It's smoother than a razor" was a nod to the (then) ubiquitous Motorola RAZR. Finally, "It can bark, but it's not a dog" was a reference to one of the alert/ringtones of the iPhone. When John found that ringtone, he played it over and over and over.