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It's official: 'iDay' has dawned

At 12:01 a.m. Friday in Manhattan, people waiting in line for the iPhone begin the final countdown.

Counting some iSheep. Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

At the 5th Avenue Apple store in Manhattan, which recently passed 100 people in line for the iPhone's release, there was a countdown at midnight to mark the official start of what's being referred to as "iDay." The rain has passed, and it's a surprisingly tolerable night; some people have set up tents and are asleep, while others have set up board games and are planning to stay up all night, or are engaging in guessing games to figure out other line-waiters' occupations. Still others, recently arrived and looking better outfitted for the beach than for a night outside on the corner of 5th Avenue and East 58th Street, were nervous about making it through the night.

Apple Store employees bring around bottled water Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

Occasionally, a car would drive by and the driver would honk and yell something like, "iPhone, yeah!" A few hecklers have also showed up, mildly teasing the first guy in line. ("You gonna go on Letterman?") But considering he's a seasoned line-waiter, he didn't seem fazed by any of it. Some other people in line responded to the hecklers by insisting that they were waiting for the new Harry Potter book instead.

Killing some time with Monopoly. Paging Mr. Gates... Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

It's a diverse bunch. The most heavily represented occupation is by far the tech industry (entrepreneurs, developers, bloggers, software consultants, system administrators), but other folks in line are college and high school students, a Broadway actor, a subway operator and the "interdisciplinary creativity team" known as Andrew Andrew (which was written up by Apple.com in 2003 for its weekly late-night hipsterfest called "iParty," where they DJed with iPods--still a novelty at the time). David Clayman (No. 2 in line) was taking a census of everyone there, obtaining names, occupations and interesting facts. (The preppy University of Vermont student somewhere in the mid-80s range, for example, is fluent in Chinese.)

Many people who arrived at the iPhone line around midnight weren't really sure what to expect. Caroline McCarthy/CNET Networks

As for gossip, there were two major rumors going around: the first was that someone near the front of the line was looking to sell his place, which does not appear to be true; and second, that the store only has 400 phones in stock. Considering only 100 people are currently in line, no one's worried yet: even if they each get the maximum two apiece, that's still twice as many phones as needed. But several people I spoke to did seem worried that things could get extremely frenzied come Friday afternoon. It'll be a madhouse for sure. And if rumors about shortages start to proliferate, well, that could get ugly.

We'll have ground operations on both coasts. Stay iTuned!