When I was a kid, we used to wait in line for concert tickets. Not anymore.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
3 min read

When I was a young college student, I camped out overnight with friends in a parking lot outside Tower Records (remember them?) to buy tickets for The Who's 25th anniversary tour. This was the summer of 1989, and the Internet was a university research tool--I didn't log on to send my first e-mail for another year, and back then I only had one friend to communicate with! To get decent seats (or, sometimes, to get any seats) for a popular show back then, you either had to wait in line outside the nearest Ticketmaster outfit, or call the moment tickets went on sale and hope (a.) not to get a busy signal and (b.) to be connected with a reasonably intelligent and cooperative ticket broker who would be able to type your request into the ticketing computer faster than the dozens or hundreds of other brokers accessing the system at the same time. My friends and I had missed The Who's "farewell" tour in 1982, and didn't trust the phone strategy, so we got comfortable and camped out, occasionally swapping out places tripping around suburban Bellevue in the middle of the night.

Things have changed. Nobody waits in line for $20 concert tickets anymore (yeah, that's really what they cost back then), and today's musical acts can't even sell out arenas, much less stadiums, unless it's their first tour in 23 years.

Instead, people wait in line for $500 gadgets.

University Village is my local shopping center, and it happens to have an Apple Store. My first thought when I saw this scene at the front of the store:

Apple Store, Seattle, iPhone Launch

Was "oh, not too bad. I guess Seattle's not as obsessed as New York."

Then, I saw that University Village security had routed the line across the parking lot:

Seattle, U Village Parking Lot, iPhone Launch

...and around the bend to some stores on the other side!
Seattle, University Village, iPhone Launch

I would estimate there were about 200 people in line. About 80% men, and mostly in their 20s or 30s, although I saw one kid who looked about 12. I overheard a couple attendees spreading a rumor that only the first fifty would probably get an iPhone. ("How'd you hear that?" "My friend at Microsoft told me.")

What these folks may not realize is that University Village also has a Cingular Wireless store. It's located slightly out of the way, on an upper level. And the line there was only about 30 people long:

Seattle, Cingular Store, iPhone Launch

There, the rumor was that the Cingular Store would have 20 to 30 iPhones for sale. So, if I were a betting man, I'd head straight for the Cingular Store and forget about the Apple line.

By way of comparison, there's also a Sony Style store at University Village, and they had about 20 people camping in line the night before the PS3 went on sale. Then again, people knew that supplies would be scarce--I seem to recall that store got about six units shipped--so anybody who saw that first 20 people probably gave up and went home.

For what it's worth, the Who played one of the best concerts I've ever seen: nearly 3 hours long, with most of Tommy played, and Pete Townshend impaled his hand on the wammy bar during the climax of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and had to be rushed to the hospital. May your iPhone experience be equally enjoyable!