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Former Apple Engineer Talks About the Genesis of iPhone

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Terry Lambert, a former Apple engineer responsible for a large portion of the MacOS Kernel, recently took to Quora to answer a question about the genesis of the iPhone and the surrounding secrecy (via AppleInsider). In the Quora post about the original iPhone, he also revealed that he wrote 6% of the MacOS Kernel as measured by lines of code, or about 100,000 lines a year, majority of which was repurposed for the iOS kernel.

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Lambert referred to the original iPhone as “Project Purple”, adding that he was brought in “late in the game” and mainly for debugging purposes. The engineer mentioned not even seeing the product he was working on initially. “I got taken into areas where there were black cloths everywhere,” said Lambert. “I only got to see the machine doing the remote debugging, not the target —but it was obviously an ARM based system.”

“Another thing that Apple does is they give different code names to different groups,” recalled Lambert. “In other words you may be working on the same project as someone else, and not actually know it. Or be allowed to discuss it.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously had tiers of access to the building that the iPhone was being developed in. In a form of compartmentalized security, engineers working on the least secret aspects of the program were limited to just that aspect, with workers involved on the core of the hardware, including the material design, had many tiers of security to pass thorough.

“You may have access to the regular lab, but not the ‘secret lab,'” said Lambert. “You didn’t really get to see the form factor, because when you are doing the initial work, it’s all prototypes on plexiglass.”

He left Apple in October 2010, after which he spent nearly two years at Google.

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