Personal Technology

∙ 3 min read

I want you to watch about a minute of the video below. Pay close attention to the opening bit as Jony Ive tells the story of the Apple Watch’s design.

Pretty great, right? Ive’s crisp British accent, Apple’s trademark cinematography. The folks in Cupertino certainly know how to draw you in. (No shame if you want to watch more.) Did you notice it though?

Nestled amongst words and phrases, like “individuality,” “intimate,” and “connects with the wearer,” was the word: “personal.” Ive (and Tim Cook) attach it to the watch a lot throughout the rest of the presentation. Maybe this is all just pedantic, handwavy marketing speak, but I believe it.

I have never owned an Apple Watch so I can’t attest to how personal it may be, however, this (below) was a truly personal device. One you may never have seen before nor remembered if you did. It’s an alarm clock.

sense

How many people love their alarm clocks? Alarms are usually really, really annoying. Nothing is more impersonal than being jolted awake a little too early by the default iPhone ringer (or any sound for that matter). I loved this little guy though.

Sense was such a pleasant experience from the day I got it. It showed up in clean, Apple-esque packaging. The hardware (base station and “sleep pill”) and software (iOS app) were seamlessly integrated. Set up was a breeze. Its gentle lights and sounds woke me up rather effectively. I was learning more about my sleep and bedroom conditions (it had temperature, light, etc. sensors) than ever before.

It was a dear part of my life for a couple years.

Great things don’t always last forever though. When I heard Hello, was saying Goodbye in June, I didn’t sleep particulary well that night. It was so unclear what was going to happen. Would my trusty alarm stop working one night, leaving me stranded the next morning? Thankfully this didn’t happen, but it didn’t get any easier.

Finally, a few weeks ago—it was a Thursday night—I opened up Sense.app to tweak my alarm. And it wasn’t connecting to their servers. This was not a good sign. Sense had been in and out for the last month or so, but never like this.

Like a handfull of others, I took to Twitter. To see what other Sense owners were saying, to vent my frustrations, to feel a bit better about its demise.

RIP @hello sense 😭

— Tom Meagher 😬 (@tomfme) January 26, 2018

think the servers were finally shut off. really wish there was a standalone mode @jamesproud pic.twitter.com/cGk5dVVv6Q

— Tom Meagher 😬 (@tomfme) January 26, 2018

I started thinking about what you do with technology when it no longer works?

this little guy has been a dear part of my life for a the last couple years. one of the best tech products i’ve ever owned pic.twitter.com/TVyjuUZqrn

— Tom Meagher 😬 (@tomfme) January 26, 2018

The next morning, I had an unexpected note sitting in my inbox.

thanks, james

At this point, I figured everyone at Hello (makers of Sense) had moved on to their next things. It was touching that James, the founder of Hello, reached out. Sense clearly meant a lot to him.

And I don’t think Sense could have been built by anyone else. Anyone else, other than James and the team he assembled. Sense was an extremely personal product for me and many others. Built by an extremely personal team that fought to the end.

goodbye, @hello pic.twitter.com/jcRmTB9Grs

— Tom Meagher 😬 (@tomfme) January 26, 2018

Thank you James. Thank you Sense for teaching me about the very best of technology.