Verizon announced its iPhone 4 today, as expected, but it was CDMA, not LTE, and it wasn’t white, which would seem to defy one of my 2011 predictions made only last week — that Verizon would get an exclusive on white iPhones. Rather than capitulate, though, I’ll tell a story about the invention of the nibble copier, followed by some dirt about Verizon’s LTE network that might be a big concern for corporations.
Steve Wozniak invented the Apple ][ disk drive with its Integrated Woz Machine (IWM) controller, which was revolutionary for its time. And unlike competing disk drives (these were floppies, by the way — hard drives and optical drives had yet to make it to PCs) the Apple drives had copy protection built-in. That is until Woz decided to defeat his own design by inventing the first nibble copier so he could copy his VisiCalc disks.
Competing floppies of the time used hard sectors determined by little holes punched in the disk. Copying those floppies was easy because it was simple to see where the sectors were. But the IWM ignored hard sectors completely, using its own sectoring scheme that could be varied by a command embedded on the disk and read by the IWM firmware. This copy protection was finally defeated by the nibble copier, which also ignored sectors and simply made perfect copies of an entire disk, one little nibble (half-byte) at a time.
Having invented the nibble copier, which was sold under the name Locksmith, Woz then went on to defeat it, again undermining his own design. His motivation in this case was two-fold: 1) to have fun, and; 2) to keep Locksmith disks, themselves, from being copied. He did this by embedding a sequence on the Locksmith disks that effectively said, “do not copy this disk.” It helps when you control both the software and the hardware upon which it runs, eh?
Eventually Woz and Henry Roberts developed a further copy protection scheme that hid the sector information in a pseudo-random number. That was about 30 years ago and last we heard Woz was trying to defeat himself again by using heat from a laundry iron to essentially push bits from one floppy through to another, again making a perfect copy.
Here is where we return to the present. Andy Hertzfeld, who told me this story, predicted that Woz would never be able to copy a floppy using an iron. But Woz has yet to capitulate on this, claiming that — 30 years later — he is still trying.
And so it is with me. I still believe the white iPhones will come from Verizon, but they’ll be LTE models that we’ll see later this year.
And speaking of the Verizon Long Term Evolution 4G network, customers are learning that it won’t support certain Cisco Virtual Private Network (VPN) devices. This came from a corporate Verizon customer now stuck with a boatload of useless Cisco gear and was confirmed by another such customer when I reached out last night.
Verizon engineers, by the way, say nothing is wrong. Now that pisses me off.
There’s this disconnect that takes place sometimes where users and service providers see a problem completely differently. In this case customers are clearly being inconvenienced yet Verizon engineers are saying, “no they aren’t,” which actually means, “there shouldn’t be a problem and if there is that problem is on the customer’s end, not ours.”
Who is right?
The customer is always right. If Verizon doesn’t get that, then Verizon is headed for trouble with all those dissatisfied iPhone customers they are expecting to grab from AT&T. Chronic complainers will be the first to jump ship.
Here’s the question nobody asked (but should have) at today’s Verizon iPhone event in New York: “Why don’t corporate VPN’s work on your 4G network?” Had someone asked that question I’d bet by Monday the problem would be fixed.
But since it wasn’t asked, Verizon will remain in denial until thousands of customers are inconvenienced and the carrier is finally forced to admit that yes, there is a problem.