Not even Apple's first iPhone engineers knew all it could do

Former Apple engineers Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz talk about the development of the iPhone a decade after its release.

John Markoff, formerly of the New York Times, (left) interviews former Apple engineers who worked on the first iPhone. From left, Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz. 
Shara Tibken/CNET

How secretive was Apple about the first iPhone? Engineers working on the project didn't even know what it really could do. 

When building the first iPhone leading up to its release in 2007, Apple put together a group of engineers and designers tasked with working on the top-secret project. Hardware engineers didn't even know what the software could do, and vice versa.

"The hardware team knew [the screen] was multitouch," Hugo Fiennes, a former Apple engineer, said during a panel Tuesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. "But the first time I saw pinch-to-zoom was at the keynote" where then CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. 

Former New York Times reporter John Markoff moderated the chat with Fiennes and fellow former Apple engineers Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz. Scott Forstall, Apple's former head of software, is slated to talk later Tuesday. 

Markoff asked the group what they told their friends when asked about what they were working on. Herz laughed and said, "Friends?"

Ganatra added that Apple's secrecy was "an impediment" to the team working together, but he added that it was necessary because "there was so much value there."

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