An interview with Bob Burrough; a lead engineer on the original iPhone
A red vintage 2008 Tesla Roadster screeches to a stop in front of me.
“Get in.” Bob Burrough says, leaning over and popping open the passenger door. The top is up and he’s grinning.
I’m at San Jose International Airport. I’m here to interview the elusive Bob Burrough. He’s twenty minutes late.
Bob Burrough, the former Apple software development manager, who, in his words, ‘changed the world developing the most successful products of all time: iPod, iPhone, and iPad’. In his words, ‘out of the chaos of Apple under Steve Jobs’.
Wild and rewarding chaos. They were his words too.
Who would disagree? The products that changed the course of our lives and human history forever.
We speed south on Interstate 880. The sun is setting, scorching the sky a brilliant orange into midnight blue. You don’t get skies like this back in London.
I’m waiting for Bob to start the small talk. How was your flight? 11 hours. That aeroplane food eh? I don’t eat on planes. How about those US customs fuckers?
But he doesn’t.
“Where we headed, Bob?”
“I’m not telling you. Not yet. But I invited you specifically, I love your site. Love your work.”
“Thanks Bob, it means a lot to hear-”
“The way you write dialogue, there’s something about it. Truly great.”
“Cheers, so where are we heading?”
“In good time, pal. In good time.”
Bob taps the Tesla’s touch screen and engages Autopilot mode. Then he spins 180 degrees and leans his back against the steering wheel with his legs crossed on the seat.
“Fucking hell Bob, is that safe?”
“Don’t worry about it, be at peace. Here…” Bob reaches into his breast pocket, “Have a bump of this.” He chucks me an AirPod charging case.
I flick open the lid; instead of two AirPods in the perfectly hollowed out holes, each hole is packed with a powder.
“That’s coke on the left. LSD on the right.” Bob says with a nod.
Fuck me I think. But this is what I’m here for. To discover the man behind the tweets; Bob has become a synonymous voice critiquing Apple. Publicly blaming Tim Cook for turning Apple into a ‘boring operations company’. His words.
I pull out my iPad from my bag and then take my Monzo card from my wallet.
“Fuck you doing? It’s already cut!” Bob exclaims.
Of course, of course. Instead, I take out a 10 pound note from my wallet and roll it up, twisting the ends between my thumb and middle finger to get it tight.
“Hahaha!” Bob laughs, “Honestly, what are you doing. Just use your keys! You never use your keys?”
I reach for my keys and scoop a bump from the left AirPod cavity. The coke. I’m not doing LSD, it’s not the bloody 70s.
Bob takes the AirPod case from me and does two from the left and one from the right.
“Hey Siri, play This is America by Childish Gambino... You heard this track? Fucking sick track. You seen the video? Great video man. Great video.”
I nod. I feel the rush instantly. Fuck me, Bob’s got some good shit.
“Fuck Bob, this is good shit. Really good shit. Wow. Yeah, yeah love this track. Never seen Atlanta though, but heard it’s good. My mate Jamie loves it. Won’t shut up about it. He doesn't even care about hip hop or anything.”
Fuck that kicked in quick.
“You know why, don’t you?” Bob replies, “Fucking Mexico. Fucking San Jose, we stole it from the Mexican’s whatever, but they’re our neighbours. So this is pure. You’re from London, right? Lord knows how many times it’s been cut by the time it gets to you guys- HEY SIRI HOW FAR AWAY IS LONDON FROM MEXICO”
<London is about 5,556 miles from Mexico City->
“Fucking 5,556 miles. That’s why. That’s why.”
At that moment we hear a beeping sound.
“Fuck what happened?” Bob twists his neck to look at the Tesla display, “Fuck, I deactivate Autopilot??”
“Nah it’s not that.” I reply, “It’s coming from somwhere else.”
We both look around. At each other. Then look down at our wrists.
Both our Apple Watches are beeping.
We simultaneously lift our wrists and read:
<Apple Watch detected your heart rate rose above 120 BPM while you appear to be inactive.>
We look up at each and burst out laughing.
“Hahahahahahaha. Oh shit. Oh shit man. I told you this was good.”
“Hahahaha. Ok. Ok. So Bob, are you gonna tell me where we’re heading now?”
“Ok, ok. Open the glove box.”
I reach over and open the glove box.
“In there, at the back.”
I put my hand in and pull out an ID card.
“Check it.” Bob says with a smile.
I turn it over in my hand.
It’s an Apple ID card.
“My old Apple ID. And guess what…”
“It still works, pal. We’re gonna go cause some mischief. Old fashioned Steve Jobs trouble. Like the 70s. That’s what Apple needs. A reminder. Let’s remind that Compaq salesman exactly what Apple is about.”
Bob motions out the window as Apple Park appears on the horizon.
“Bob. I’m not sure about this.”