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Steve Jobs rejected the first health app, or how startups worked in 1977

Posted: , by Luis D.

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Steve Jobs rejected the first health app, or how startups worked in 1977


Gather round, dear readers, it's story time. In 1977, newly recruited cardiologist George Diamond was working on devices and methods to improve diagnostics of heart diseases at LA's Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His brilliant mind and a complex probability theorem aside, he didn't have very much to work with - a TI-59 programming calculator with a whopping 1kb of RAM, which he used to write the first health app. It was a program that calculated the probability of heart disease based on test results, and we trust that he didn't name it “Heartie” or “Probabilify”.


Diamond quickly maxed out the calc's memory, so he went to one of Santa Monica's first computer stores and did what many creatives still do today - he bought an Apple computer. Using the $2700 (at the time) Apple II, which had significantly larger 48kb RAM memory, along with two floppy disk drives, Diamond wrote the “complete” first health app - a program which analyzed multiple diagnostic tests for diagnosis of coronary disease. Pleased with the result, he decided to give the whole app startup thing a try – decades before it was even a thing! Alas, one couldn't simply whip up a Kickstarter page back in '77, so Mr. Diamond had to pitch his project the old-school way - by phoning Apple in Cupertino. Which he did. A secretary put Steve Jobs on the line, and minutes later, the two arranged a meeting. The rest of the story is best told in the words of George Diamond himself:


When I got to his office, Steve Jobs looked exactly like he always looked in the future– he was wearing jeans, a black t-shirt, and sandals. His desk was absolutely cluttered with all kinds of stuff, including, of course, an Apple II. I described to him what I had been doing, and how impressed I was with his device. Other people thought it was a toy, but I thought that, eventually, a computer like this should be on the desk of every doctor in the world. I thought my program could be a means toward that end, and I would love to get his thoughts about it, and if he would be willing to do something to help us advance that idea. 


 Steve said he was very impressed with what I had done, and that he agreed about the potential for the future, but frankly, he was not interested in working on this. I asked why. He said: ‘You have to understand. This is something that nobody in the world yet understands. I can’t be distracted. I’m trying to make the best hammer I can make, the best hammer in the world. You can use my hammer to tear something down, or you can use it to build something up. I really don’t care what you do with my hammer. I just want to make the best possible hammer. And what you are doing is a wonderful bit of construction, but to me it’s a distraction.’


I really don’t care what you do with my hammer. I just want to make the best possible hammer. 

At the time, it seems Steve Jobs was only interested in building the best computer possible, and everything else was a "distraction". So George Diamond thanked him, flew back to LA, and proceeded to become Dr. George Diamond, MD. Meanwhile, Apple became Apple, and is currently gearing up to introduce its first health app, Healthbook, which will debut in iOS 8 - a mere 37 years later.



via Forbes

12 Comments
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posted on 17 Mar 2014, 05:43 8

1. kaikuheadhunterz (Posts: 708; Member since: 18 Jul 2013)


You know you're a genius when you can make an app with a calculator

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 06:26

3. timukh (Posts: 162; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


Yeah this part struck me too!! Impressive!

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 07:45

6. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5712; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


The calculator handles the probability part. As Diamond mentioned, he ran out of memory with the TI calculator. He then went looking for something with more memory and found the Apple II. The TI 'programming' is analogous to macros in Excel - you record a series of keystrokes that are then played back each time the 'program' is run. Not taking away from Diamond's accomplishment, just clarifying.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 10:47

9. kaikuheadhunterz (Posts: 708; Member since: 18 Jul 2013)


I don't get it

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 15:03

10. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5712; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


If you look at each key on the TI calculator, it performs a certain function depending on whether you press the key itself or in combination with another key ([2nd] + [6] calculates the arithmetic mean or average). The program function of the TI calculator stores a set of key presses. When the program is run, it automaticcally does the key pressing instead of you having to do it each time.

Diamond ran out of memory to store his data + program (key press) instructions, so he went looking for a larger computer and pitched his idea to Steve, who said no thanks.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 20:41

12. kaikuheadhunterz (Posts: 708; Member since: 18 Jul 2013)


Thanks for the clarification. Sorry, haven't been to school for a while

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 06:22 1

2. Lt.Green (Posts: 368; Member since: 13 Mar 2014)


Two people ahead of their time. Simply admirable.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 06:50 1

4. boosook (Posts: 976; Member since: 19 Nov 2012)


Nice story! And I can understand Jobs' answer in this case, regardless of how admirable the doctor's work may have been.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 07:20 2

5. good2great (Posts: 1039; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)


brilliant words spoken from Steve Jobs. both gentlemen were in their own elite class.

still not sure of the title of this article though.

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 08:04 1

7. androiphone20 (Posts: 1405; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)


I think Mr. Diamond could use Masa's ambitious soul

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 08:29

8. Gaurav008 (Posts: 274; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


That quote though. Much awesomeness!

posted on 17 Mar 2014, 19:49

11. garyII (Posts: 160; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


nice !

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