How Apple’s revolutionary iPhone helped save the planet

Apple's 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max (right)
Apple’s 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max (right)

Andrew McAfee for Wired:

Steve Cichon, a “writer, historian, and retired radio newsman” got a clue in 2014 when he paid $3 for a stack of old Buffalo News newspapers. On the back page of February 16, 1991 issue was an ad from the electronics retailer Radio Shack. Cichon noticed something striking about the ad: “There are 15 electronic gizmo type items on this page… 13 of the 15 you now always have in your pocket.”

The “gizmo type” items that had vanished into the iPhone Cichon kept in his pocket included a calculator, camcorder, clock radio, mobile telephone, and tape recorder. And while the ad didn’t include a compass, camera, barometer, altimeter, accelerometer, or GPS device, these too have vanished into the iPhone… Cichon’s find shows us that when thinking about their overall impact on the planet, it’s not helpful to think in isolation about producing 2 billion iPhones. Instead, we should think about a counterfactual: What would have been produced over the past 12 years in a smartphone-free world?

…Sales of point-and-shoot cameras, camcorders, film, and videotapes have plummeted in recent years, but that’s not because we stopped caring about pictures and videos. Instead, it’s because a device called the smartphone came along that let us dematerialize our consumption of these things… Why now? There are two causes [capitalism and technological progress]. The ever-more powerful and popular iPhone is the poster child for this progress, but the technologies of dematerialization are all over the place.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s iPhone allows us to get much more from much less and, in fact, obviously, Steve Jobs certainly did make quite the dent in our universe!


  1. The iPhone replaced these 8 items that I carried daily: iPod, calculator (credit card size), electronic address book (credit card size), pocket flashlight, pocket notebook, pencil and pen, and pager. I remember that Jobs’ announcement of the 2007 iPhone seemed like science fiction at the time. I was stunned.

  2. Yet there are these young tech-heads who keep calling the iPhone boring. There is almost no smartphone that is boring considering all the things they can do. I’m just past 70 years old and I grew up in a time with the first transistor radios being available after the U.S. helped Japan rebuild their manufacturing infrastructure. My dad bought me a portable transistor radio for my birthday from a store called Lafayette Electronics which no longer exists. I carried that 6-transistor battery-powered radio everywhere as it fit in the palm of my hand. I was hooked on electronics from then on.

    Honestly, the current smartphone is simply an amazing device that can do so many things. These new tech-heads have no idea how fortunate they are to be around in these times as the silicon-based transistor is reaching its quantum limits. I guess they just take these electronic devices for granted, but I never will. My parents lived to their 90s so I figure I may have a way to go to see even newer devices and I’ll take advantage of them as long as my mind is able to cope. I’ve gone through SLRs, DSLRs, Walkmen, CD players, mp3 players, a dozen or so programmable and non-programmable pocket calculators. I didn’t get a cellphone until about ten years ago as I had little need for one.

    Apple really did a wonderful job with putting a computer/multi-device into a person’s pocket, but there are few people who actually appreciate what Steve Jobs did. Apple is now considered a has-been company because they don’t have a folding smartphone or for some other stupid crap reasons. A five-year old iPhone is still a fine device that could be useful to any citizen in an emerging nation. As an American, I’m glad to have access to almost anything I can ever need. Since the 1980’s, I’ve never been without a computer or two at home (100% Apple Macs) and I fully appreciate them.

    Apple does deserve a place in history of keeping people connected with computers and smartphones. People take this much too lightly with their short-sighted BS. Apple has been around a pretty long time where many other companies have come and gone. Every time I hear these smug people talk about lack of innovation from Apple, it’s just so ridiculous. No company can always have a hit product every few years, but Apple has quite a few very successful products in just a couple of decades and that’s amazing by any standards.

    The smartphone, to me, has to be the top electronic device I’ve ever owned in my life, relatively small and compact it can be taken everywhere and with a portable power-pack it just keeps going and doing its thing, from knowledge-grabber to entertainment. I’m not sure if it will be the device of an entire century but I think it is the top-ranking device for this century, so far, year 2000 to 2019. The children born in the past 20 or so years just don’t know how lucky they are being able to access smartphones, tablets and desktop computers and not have to deal with paper dictionaries and encyclopedias.

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