WWDC Memories: Shazam 2008

WWDC 2014 starts in about a week. I’m sure that by this time next week there will be a line around Moscone West waiting to get in to hear what new offerings Apple has for their community. I was lucky enough to have been in that line over a dozen times going back to the late 90’s when the event was held in San Jose. The event has a fairly traditional and predictable schedule for the week with some changes over the years to accommodate Jerry Seinfeld and Star Trek Voyager, for example. The usual Wednesday night festivities usually include an event called Stump the Experts. I have a particular memory from one year that still reverberates in my memory.

The basic premise is of Stump the Experts is that the audience gets to ask a panel of “experts” trivial questions from any point in Apple’s history. These questions typically center around specific minutia about software and hardware from the last 40 years. The audience regularly find the most obscure reference imaginable, ask their question, only to find that the engineer responsible for that bug or feature is actually sitting on stage. This event really changed in the early 2000s when Internet access became available during the show. Winners get their choice of a collection of arcane software or a coveted t-shirt. I have such a t-shirt in my collection but that is another story. The event usually starts on time but people tend to get there early to grab a good seat. While the crowd is gathering there is music playing overhead. This will come into play later. People in the know try to take note of what music is playing.

In 2008 the iPhone madness was just over a year old. That year’s conference promised iOS 2.0 which would allow developers to for the first time write and sell their own software. All we long we had been learning about how to take our ideas and put them on to the tiny screen. After a few question-answer volleys one developer stepped up to the microphone with his question.

Huxham: “What’s your question?”
Developer: “I’d like to guess the songs played at the beginning.”
Huxham: “Which one?”
Developer: “Uh, all of them.”

The audience murmured in geek awe as the developer proceeded to list, in order, all the songs that had played before the event. According to Wikipedia, he got all but one correct. For me this was the event that really showed the power of this little device in your hand. The developer had used it like a Star Trek Tricorder to collect and analyze sensor data and then look up that data using a remote computing service. Today this kind of functionality was still in its infancy.

The usual question about songs played before the event was answered by a gentleman who used audio recognition software running on an iPhone to correctly identify all but one of the songs using technology from Landmark Digital Services. Another song was identified by another attendee using Shazam music ID software (a licensee of Landmark Digital Services) on an S60v3 phone.


In 2008, WWDC 2008 took place from June 9 to 13 at Moscone West, San Francisco. Apple reported that, for the first time, the conference had sold out. There were three tracks for developers, iPhone, Mac, and IT. Announcements at the keynote included the App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch, the stable version of the iPhone SDK, a subsidized 3G version of the iPhone for Worldwide markets,version 2.0 of iPhone OS, Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6), and the replacement/rebranding of .Mac as MobileMe. For the bash held June 12, the band Barenaked Ladies played at the Yerba Buena Gardens.


Shazam for iPhone 2.0 debuted on 10 July 2008, with the launch of Apple’s App Store. The free app simplified the service by enabling the user to launch iTunes and buy the song directly if the user was on a Wi-Fi connection (at the time, iTunes did not allow music downloads over 3G). It was also possible to launch the iPhone YouTube app, if a video was available.


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