We’re a few weeks away from the national conventions of both Democratic and Republican parties, and that means parties are drafting platforms. But amid the arguing over fine points of policy and disagreements over rules, Nancy Pelosi took the time to make a rather odd statement. According to her, the iPhone wasn’t invented by Apple, but by the federal government.
This came up, oddly, as an argument for more public-private partnerships. Pelosi’s argument? That the technology was pioneered by the government, and Apple just slapped it together into the iPhone:
In this smartphone, almost everything came from federal investment and research. GPS, created by the military, flatscreens, LLD [sic], digital camera, wireless data compression, research into metal alloys for strength and light weight, voice recognition, the list goes on and on… They say Steve Jobs did a good job designing it and putting it together. Federal research invented it.
To be fair, this isn’t quite like the infamous moment when Ted Stevens said the internet was a series of tubes, or Al Gore taking credit for laying the legal groundwork for the internet. Pelosi may be making the same mistake as Gore in taking too much credit, but she does have a point to some degree. GPS does indeed have its roots in a system built by the military. Flatscreens were pioneered by the military in the form of the Aiken tube. Major advances in LCD screens, which Senator Pelosi mistakenly refers to as LLDs, were paid for in part by DARPA and, er, former Apple CEO John Sculley. And the government did contribute to, although it was hardly the first to study, voice recognition.
That said, just like you can have eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, buttermilk and yeast and wind up with a mess instead of pancakes, creating all these technologies doesn’t mean you get a right to take credit for the results. So Pelosi is probably due for a little razzing, even if she does have a point.