Memories of WWDC 2008

Exactly 15 years ago, on Monday, June 9th, 2008, I published a blog post with a picture taken in the big room of the Moscone conference center in San Francisco, waiting for Steve Jobs to introduce the iPhone 3G to the world at the annual Apple World Wide Developers’ Conference 2008.

I had downloaded the SDK the day it was published and I jumped 100% into it. I knew that learning Objective-C since 2002 would pay off one day.

I then created a small script to generate iCal files from the official schedule in JSON format, something that got noticed by a few people like Jeff LaMarche and the long gone TUAW blog, as I told it in this article of this blog.

We traveled to San Francisco with Claudia, and the official t-shirt said it all: the event was all about iPhone apps.

(Credits: Xevio’s t-shirt archive)

That was the first WWDC that sold out, in 2 months. Starting 2014, WWDC became an “invitation only” event, where you sign up and you either are chosen to go or not. I attended the event four times, in 2008, 2009, 2010, and finally in 2012.

WWDC 2008 was the one with the t-shirts reading “OS X iPhone” because the name “iOS” didn’t exist until 2010 (for proof, see the picture at the bottom of this article). This event happened before GitHub appeared on the map. I did not have an iPhone on my pocket yet, but a good old feature phone from Ericsson. I was a few weeks away from finishing my Master’s degree thesis, and I remember I was working on it on the plane to San Francisco.

I met lots of friends in that event, many of which I am still in contact with after all of these years (mostly through Mastodon, as they have almost all left Twitter behind, and rightfully so.)

I blogged right before and right after the keynote, sitting outside the main room on top of Moscone West conference center. The following day I had a pastrami sandwich for lunch.

A few weeks later, an iPhone popped up on the Swiss Apple Store. I had been expecting them for a year and a half at that point.

After WWDC developers had to face the Fucking NDA that blocked iPhone developers from asking questions on this newly created site called “Stack Overflow” and pretty much anywhere else. A ridiculous situation that only Apple could get out with. I asked people to sign a petition for Apple to drop it. I don’t know whether it worked or not, but by the end of September Apple did it.

While we were waiting for the NDA to drop we organized the one and only iPhone Conference in Geneva, held in October, for which we were awarded a “cease and desist” by Apple themselves (because the conference banner displayed… an iPhone). We literally turned the iPhone around in the picture (showing the camera instead of the screen) and did the conference anyway. The video of my talk is still up there. I was younger and had darker hair. Same latino accent while speaking English, though.

15 years later, I have completed various other chapters of my life, and among other things, I have left Apple almost completely behind. These days I only use an iPhone that has a home screen that looks like this:

The toolbar at the bottom of my iPhone shows no Apple apps; well, maybe Firefox would qualify as one, as it’s just a decoration around the standard Safari browser engine, but still. No Safari, Messages, Music, or Notes; instead, Firefox, Signal, Spotify, and Joplin.

Yes, I could switch to Android anytime if I wanted. I’ve done in the past, actually.

WWDC 2008 was a pivot moment in my life. 15 years before 2008 it was 1993, and I was finishing high school and then going to spend a few months at the Swiss Army.

And in exactly 15 years, in October 1st, 2038, I will retire. My working life will then have spanned 45 years, if I am still alive by 2038, and if the Year 2038 problem doesn’t break havoc before, that is.

During my time in the Apple galaxy I made lots and lots of apps. I even brought the first iPads to Switzerland in 2010. I made a living writing Objective-C first, and in comparison, just a little Swift after 2014. A little, only. The reason why I liked making apps was precisely Objective-C. That’s why I had bought an iBook G3 in 2002 (a machine that I would later use, interestingly, to install Linux for the first time!) I don’t think Swift is a good language for UI development. Dynamic, “late bound” programming languages are much better for that task. Swift is not even good for backend apps1.

The saddest thing I learnt about Apple was that they do not care at all about the developer experience. They (wrongly) assume it’s not their problem. A friend was telling me a few days ago how much of a PITA Xcode has become, getting worse every year, to the point that her fellow Android developers wouldn’t even think about making iOS apps, just because of Xcode. And sadly, the only option (albeit limited) to Xcode, JetBrains AppCode, is no longer available.

I learnt that Apple, as far as developers are concerned, is a dead end that requires lots and lots of courage.

On the other hand… I’ve never used as much developer stuff from Microsoft as I have recently. Satya Nadella arguably created a much better ecosystem for software developers than Tim Cook ever will… or want.

(Credits: Xevio’s t-shirt archive)

  1. It feels to me like the industry never learns the lesson. We fall in love with strongly typed languages (Rust these days receiving all the spotlight) and then at some point we get annoyed of the compilation times and start from scratch all over again with less strongly-typed languages. ↩︎