I waited in line to buy the G1 at an Alexandria, Virginia T-Mobile store. Yes, there was a line — in San Francisco and New York there were even people camping out. The phone I was buying wasn't going to replace whatever beat-to-hell BlackBerry I was using back then, I didn't even have T-Mobile service where I lived (though paying for it anyway proved to be worth it and I'll never give up this ancient plan) and the G1 wouldn't even be able to be activated in the DC area for three weeks because it wasn't a 3G market on launch day. I wanted the Google phone because I like to mess with stuff.
Fast forward eight years and all the assorted electronic crap I've gone through since and the G1 was still one of the best things I ever bought. All because of how fun it was to try and fix the broken mess that was Android back then.
Everything is better now. That means we don't have to try and fix it.
The Nexus 5X is the modern version of the G1 because it's cheap, easy to do "stuff" with, and other fun people have one. But it's not the same because Android isn't the same. Now that everything works — from the build tools to the compiler chain to the finished software — I don't spend the time I used to spend building and fiddling with it. Don't get me wrong, this is good. I've since ditched other platforms and want/need phone software that works and the last couple of Android versions have been just that, minus a few cases for a handful of people that we would see with any software. I know my phone will work when I get a call or a message or just want to challenge some crazy word that was played in Scrabble. But I find myself missing the days when it was all brokenAF and the feeling that came with hours of fooling with it and making it work. Even the latest Android beta for 7.1.1 mostly just works without building or flashing anything.
Part of the reason is how my job has changed. Six years ago Dieter Bohn and Phil Nickinson had the insight to know what was going to happen to Android and found me to come work here. Having a dude who could put Android on a toaster or make a broken build for an ADP (Android Developer Phone, the precursor to the Nexus and Pixel) work again was a smart move. My writing skills were borderline because the only things I ever wrote and got paid for writing were technical manuals for automation equipment and reading one of those is as bad as you think it would be. I think that got better (I hope it did) but my job was to pick something that was broken, figure out how to fix it or find someone who already fixed it and write about it. It was a fun and easy way to make a living.
There are plenty of other fun things to do, but I still miss fixing broken things once in a while.
What I do now has drifted away from phone stuff a little, and while it's still fun (and as easy as I can make it be) it's different. It's better most of the time because I get to look at some cool shit that I didn't get to look at before. Right now, I'm modding Skyrim because I'm writing something about the Havok engine. Next week I'm going to try Daydream View while under the influence of different substances. I have no complaints and know that this is the best job on the planet. But I still miss being a code-monkey just a little.
Android has come a long way. I see plenty of faces in the comments and in the forums that have been here long enough to know what I'm talking about and were along for the ride helping fix things and break new stuff. I think all of us know that things are much better the way they are now, but we also miss having to prod and coax things into submission every now and then. At least a little bit.