Ten years later: iPhone’s impact

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Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on this day ten years ago during his 2007 Macworld keynote.

I remember watching the recorded keynote later at home on my beloved first Mac (the adorable white iMac G4*). I sat enthralled watching Jobs masterfully and with obvious glee unveil the never-before-seen features of this new device. I gasped along with the audience at touchscreen scrolling and pinch-to-zoom. I recognized immediately that this device was indeed the breakthrough device Jobs was pitching it to be.

The video of that keynote is worth rewatching even if you’ve seen it before, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’ve never seen it. It’s embedded here along with a fascinating oral history of what led to the moment.

That moment is a turning point in technology, but also, in many ways, in our culture. We take it for granted now that a powerful computer with access to all the world’s knowledge and all of our most treasured photos and favorite songs can fit in your pocket. Before January 9, 2007 that possibility would have seemed far fetched. 

But Jobs’s keynote was remarkable as a form of presentation art as well. That moment was peak-Steve Jobs. The preparation for and execution of that keynote has become legendary. Jobs was in his element. He knew he had the substance—a once-in-a-generation product that he knew would change everything**—and he brought all the powers of his charismatic style to the moment.

The change sparked by the iPhone is remarkable, and its influence on its competitors and on technology and culture at large is undeniable. The world viewed through the prism of the iPhone generation looks different now than it did ten years ago. Better in many ways. Worse in some. 

It was a triumph of engineering and design. And a triumph of imagination. 

What could appear—what can even you bring to life—that might alter the way we can improve the human experience over the next ten years?

Think different, indeed.  

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*I still have this Mac tucked away on a little used desk in my home. I don’t power it on. But it’s still beautiful to look at.

**January 9, 2007 was also the day that Apple officially dropped the word “Computer” from the name of the company. Jobs knew Apple would never be the same after that day, too. It went from being an iconic, but second-tier computer maker to the most valuable and influential company in the world. 

Kitchen tools list, updated

My sister-in-law is getting married later this year. Knowing I’m the primary cook in the family and knowing I’m a little too obsessed with finding the right tool, whether in technology or in the kitchen, she asked me to give her a list of essential kitchen tools for her wedding registry.

I was too happy to oblige, and I thought others might find this list useful as well.

I am no chef, and my skills are rudimentary at best, but I do care a lot about using quality tools that get the job done and are a delight to use.

The list below is made up mostly of tools I own and use, though some just represent categories, and the particular maker is less important. If you’re setting up a kitchen or want to expand your collection of tools, you might find something useful here:

  • Chef’s knife – You don’t need a lot of knives. Most cooks really only use two or three on a daily basis. But the Chef’s knife is the #1 kitchen tool. This Misen knife won’t be available till later this summer, but I’ve preordered one for myself already. It gets rave reviews as having the quality of a $150 knife for less than half that price. A workhorse chef’s knife that I use almost every day is the Victorinox Fibrox. It’s $45 and is very popular in restaurant kitchens. If you want to splurge a bit (and why shouldn’t you on the most important tool in the kitchen?), you can’t go wrong with a Wusthof ($117 German blade) or a Shun ($140 Japanese blade).
  • Paring knife
  • Steak knives – I like that the edge on this one is straight, not serrated. These won’t mangle that gorgeous steak you’ve grilled.
  • Cutting board – Our main cutting board is a work of art (it was a gift) and is so impressively heavy and rugged. It’s as beautiful as it is functional. Oil your wooden cutting boards periodically to keep the wood in great condition. We also have an Oxo cutting board. It’s good to have two or three. I cut meats on the polypropylene boards and everything else on the wooden board. Bamboo boards are a good choice, too.
  • Sharpening steel for knives – Steels don’t actually sharpen knives. They do straighten the edge back into place, though, and keep knives sharp. It’s good to edge your knife before or after every use. You will need to periodically have your knives professionally sharpened.
  • Magnetic strip for knife storage – The best way to store knives is on a magnetic strip mounted to the kitchen wall. It’s best not to keep knives in a drawer. And a block takes up counter space.
  • Cast iron skillet – Lodge is the most common brand you’ll find. But I’m excited about this Kickstarter project, the Field Skillet, which promises a lighter, smoother cast iron skillet. Pre-ordered.
  • Enameled cast iron skillet – Comes in a lot of colors and is my go-to for so many tasks—sautéing, chicken parmesan, frittatas, pancakes…
  • Oxo tongs – I use these often, and in all three sizes.
  • Microplane graters – The fine and coarse graters get used almost every day in our house. (Pre-grated cheese is wrong in many ways. More expensive, coated in starch to keep it from sticking, less fresh, and less delicious. We keep a block of parmigiano-reggiano and use it regularly. My 11-year-old loves it and is sadly disappointed whenever she encounters what passes for parmesan in other kitchens.)
  • Salad spinner
  • Turner and spatula
  • Grill spatula
  • Weber grill – We have a gas grill, too, but I use this classic Weber charcoal grill more often.
  • Weber chimney starter – Lighter fluid is not necessary, nor is pre-soaked charcoal.
  • Coffee grinder – Coffee people only use whole beans, freshly ground, of course. This is the grinder we have, but the Baratza has a bit more acclaim.
  • Garlic press – Unitaskers are not ideal, but this garlic press is a beast and one of my favorite tools.
  • Whisks – You’ll want a small and a large whisk.
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Oxo measuring cup set – Love these. I remember my mom first seeing one of these in my house years ago and being so delighted by the clever design. I gave her mine on the spot.
  • Half sheet pans – We have at least four of these. So useful, for food prep as well as baking and roasting.
  • Thermometer – This is THE thermometer to get if you’re willing to splurge. One of my most relied on gadgets, especially for grilling. $100
  • Dish towels – We use these lint-free surgical towels in the kitchen. Lots of color options.
  • Pepper mill – Never use pre-ground pepper when you can get 100 times more flavor by grinding it fresh.
  • Pizza stone – We use this for homemade pizza, and my wife also uses it for some of her cookies.
  • Simple Human open kitchen trash can – One of my favorite purchases in the past year. Who knew a trash can could be so delightful? It looks terrific, and the fact that it doesn’t have a lid turns out to be crucially awesome. Lids add a layer of friction to throwing something away, and lids get dirty.

 

My next computer: iPad Pro

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I’ve been an iPad guy since the first version was announced in 2010. I loved it immediately and used it mostly for reading, but also for writing.

It was just supplemental, though, to my iPhone and the two iMacs I had—one at the office and the other at home.

The home iMac is old now and sits unused. I use my iPad mini for most of my computer tasks away from the office. It’s a great device for reading, and it’s so good as my presentation device. I use the iOS Keynote app and a VGA adapter to connect the iPad to a projector, and I use my iPhone as the remote. It’s a lightweight, minimal, and rock solid presentation setup.

The iPad mini is also the device that I do a lot of writing on. But that’s where the mini falls short for me. The screen is just too small. I pair the iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard, but the canvas I’m writing on seems too constricting. The screen is too small for me to write comfortably. Inserting a cursor in the right location and highlighting text can be frustrating. I find myself writing less away from my office iMac just because it’s not as enjoyable to write on the tiny iPad mini screen.

I was intrigued when Apple introduced the new, very lightweight Macbook last year. The form factor is gorgeous. The screen looks impressive, and I was eager to try the new keyboard design. But the computer seemed a bit underpowered. However, I imagined its second iteration might be my dream writing machine.

When Apple introduced the 12.9 inch iPad Pro last fall, it seemed almost comically large to me. “Who is going to want that?” I wondered.

Now, I want that.

I keep hearing about people who have replaced their laptop (or even their desktop) with this new iPad. Federico Vittici, Jason Snell, CGP Grey and Myke Hurley, Serenity Caldwell… All are iPad-Pro-as-laptop-replacement evangelists. 

And now, even Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s former head of its Windows division, has written that the iPad Pro has become his primary computer.

I appreciate the simple elegance of iOS versus OS X. There’s less to fiddle and fuss with. There’s less distraction and a more focused environment. It’s a truly modern and mature operating system. 

And now, with the most powerful computing power ever in an iOS device and a screen bigger than the entry level Mac laptops, the iPad Pro may be my ultimate computing device so far. It’s at the top of my wish list. 

 

Every day luxuries: “The things you use every day should be the best-designed things you can get”

I don’t know where I found this, so I can’t give credit. I clipped it as soon I saw it and saved it, but I failed to include the link. Maybe I was too excited about the wisdom imparted here:

It’s not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross. Do not “economize.” Please. That is not the point. The economy is clearly insane. Even its champions are terrified by it now. It’s melting the North Pole. So “economization” is not your friend. Cheapness can be value-less. Voluntary simplicity is, furthermore, boring. Less can become too much work.

The items that you use incessantly, the items you employ every day, the normal, boring goods that don’t seem luxurious or romantic: these are the critical ones. They are truly central. The everyday object is the monarch of all objects. It’s in your time most, it’s in your space most. It is “where it is at,” and it is “what is going on.”

It takes a while to get this through your head, because it’s the opposite of the legendry of shopping. However: the things that you use every day should be the best-designed things you can get.

Amen.

I don’t need or want a lot of stuff. But I want the stuff I use often to be great, to give me pleasure in using it.

“Less, but better” is the mantra for me.

Kitchen tools. My razor. The furniture I sit on. The phone in my pocket. I want to delight in using these everyday things because I do use them daily.

One of my favorite purchases in the past year was this kitchen trash can. Yes, silly, I know, and expensive for a trash can. But it’s actually quite nice looking. And, even better. I love that it’s open, that there’s no lid. There’s no friction in throwing something away—no pedal to step on or lid to lift. Both its form and function are a delight.

I get a tiny tingle of pleasure (maybe microscopically tiny in this case) from using that trash can every time I throw something away. But those tiny tingles add up, as do the tiny pains of annoyance from using subpar or ugly things.

I appreciate the grace of great things, and adding more moments of delight each day or eliminating more moments of frustration or “meh” will make my days shine a bit more.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

I enjoyed this feature on Quartz about the best gifts people have received. It’s not exactly a gift guide. It’s a collection of stories about gifts that have staying power and are worth remembering and talking about long after they’ve been given.

I immediately thought about what my answer would be if asked about the best gift I’ve received. Getting set up with the woman who became my wife was the ultimate gift. (Thanks, Gloria, for sending me her name and contact information on the back of that photo. Best gift ever.) And, of course, my two daughters continue to give us joy every day.

But if I’m considering just tangible gifts, I immediately think of the camera my parents gave me when I was in ninth grade. They ran a camera shop and portrait studio, and I worked there myself occassionally. I joined the high school yearbook staff and wanted to be a photographer on the staff, but I didn’t have a good camera.

In my dad’s shop I would play with the 35 mm SLRs that were in the display case, and as Christmas approached my dream was to get the Nikon FM. I knew it was the best, but it was so expensive. My parents were facing lean times as they were trying to keep their store in business. I was sure the best camera I could hope for was the much less expensive Pentax K1000. But I was still dreaming of the Nikon.

On Christmas morning I picked a present under the tree with my name on it, and my heart sunk. From working in their shop I could tell that the box I was holding was a match for the Pentax’s camera case. I was resigned to getting the Pentax. 

It was indeed the box for the Pentax camera case, but inside was another present altogether. Socks, I think. My mom had just repurposed a discarded case box from the store.  

The next present I opened… the Nikon. This was my Red Rider BB gun moment. I was so happy. I can still recall the feel of the Nikon in my hands, the smell of the metal and plastic, wearing the strap around my neck, and eagerly taking pictures (on film, of course) of almost anything remotely interesting on that glorious Christmas morning.

That camera was a beautiful thing. It was this sophisticated and solid device made for grown-ups, professionals even, and I was honored my parents thought me worthy of it. I used it for years and still have it, though it is now a nostalgic relic of a lost era of film photography.

It’s probably that camera and that Christmas memory that cemented my already burgeoning love for cutting edge gadgets and great things in general. 

And it’s the feeling of that moment that I hope to occassionally spark for my wife and kids and other family members as I search for gifts for them.

What are the best gifts you’ve received? 

As you search for gifts for others, are you content to just go through the motions and check gifts off your to-do list? Or do you want to go on a quest to find a gift that surprises and delights and makes a memory worth talking about even years later?

  

Thermapen deal, 48 hours only

The newest version of one of my favorite kitchen tools, the Thermapen digital thermometer, is on sale until 11:59 on December 9. (Thanks, Alton Brown!)

It’s still expensive, but it’s so worth it if you cook regularly. To heck with guessing whether the meat is done. I don’t have much confidence in people who gauge doneness by the way the meat feels when poked or pressed. With this thermometer, you can know if it’s done. 

For the cook or grill master in your life, this would make a great gift. 

  

Kickstart your cooking skills with the Misen chef’s knife

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The most important tool everyone needs in their kitchen is a good chef’s knife.

ToolsandToys.net linked to Kenji Lopez-Alt’s review of the Misen knife which is a Kickstarter project. Kenji is the mastermind behind one of the best cooking tips and recipe sites online, SeriousEats.com. Kenji knows kitchen knives, and he raves about this new knife and its remarkable price:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to call it: This is the holy grail of inexpensive chef’s knives. Incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.

Most quality chef’s knives are well over $100. This Kickstarter Misen knife matches up well with high-end knives, but only costs $60.

From Kenji’s review:

That’s an incredible deal. Yes, there are cheaper knives out there, like the Forschner Victorinox Fibrox knives that Cook’s Illustrated flogs so often, but hold these two knives side by side and it makes the Forschner, with its stamped blade, plastic handle, poor balance, and lack of solid riveting, feel like a baby’s toy. I’ve held a lot of knives in my time across all ranges of the price spectrum and I’ve never held a knife that had the type of value this one is offering.

I’ve got that $35 Forschner, and it does a fine enough job. But every time I use it I can tell that it’s a “budget” knife. The metal is flimsy, and it just doesn’t feel solid in my hand.

I’m in on this Kickstarter. Ordered. And the Kickstarter has already met its goal and then some, so this knife will be produced.

If you don’t have a quality chef’s knife, you need one. And for this price and for this quality, you can’t go wrong. There are 16 days left to get in on the Kickstarter project for this excellent knife that will likely be your primary kitchen tool for years to come.

Then go check out Kenji’s knife skill tutorials so you’ll know what your doing.