Of all the Steve Jobs material circulating this week, this 1985 Playboy interview is one of the most, ahem, revealing. In a wide-ranging Q&A, a 29-year-old Jobs holds discourse on a wide range of topics – from the philosophy and history behind Apple (which was then in a ferocious war for market supremacy with IBM) to the increasing role of information technology in the world, to profound insights on human nature and creativity. With startling clarity, Jobs describes his vision of the future – and in doing so makes a series of predictions that both reveal his genius and cement his reputation as the DaVinci of his time.
Full article here, excerpts below.
On Personal Computers
Computers will be essential in most homes. We think that computers are the most remarkable tools that humankind has ever come up with, and we think that humans are basically tool users. So if we can get lots of computers to lots of people, it will make some kind of qualitative difference in the world.
On Predicting The Internet
The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people – as remarkable as the telephone.
On Quality Control
You can’t con people in this business. The products speak for themselves.
On Artistic Integrity
We built [the Macintosh] for ourselves. We were the group of people that was going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be seen all the way through.
On The Loss Of Imagination With Age
It’s the same with any new, revolutionary thing. People get stuck as they get older. Our minds are sort of electrochemical computers. Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. It’s a rare person who etches grooves that are other than a specific way of looking at things, a specific way of questioning things.
On The Sixties
That whole period had a huge influence. As it was clear the Sixties were over, it was also clear that a lot of people who had gone through the Sixties ended up not really accomplishing what they set out to accomplish, and because they had thrown their discipline to the wind, they had nothing to fall back on. Many of my friends have ended up ingrained with the idealism of that period, but also with a certain practicality, a cautiousness about ending up working behind the counter at a natural foods store when they were 45, which is what they saw happen to some of their older friends. It’s not that bad in and of itself, but it is that bad if that’s not what you really wanted to do.
On His Home State
This was California. You could get LSD fresh made from Stanford. You could sleep on the beach with your girlfriend. California has a sense of experimentation and a sense of openness — openness to new possibilities.
Companies, as they come to become multi-billion dollar entities, somehow lose their vision. They insert lots of layers of middle management between the people who are running the company and the people who are doing the work. They no longer have an inherent feel or a passion about the products. The creative people, who are the ones who care passionately, have to persuade five layers of management to do what they know is the right thing to do.
On Predicting The Emergence of Microsoft
Most of the new, innovative companies are focusing on the software. I think there will be lots of innovation in the areas of software but not in hardware.
On Steve Wozniak and Long-Term Relationships
When you work with someone that close and you go through experiences like the ones we went through, there’s a bond in life. Whatever hassles you have, there’s still a bond. And though he may not be your best friend as time goes on, there’s still something that transcends friendship, in a way.
None of the really bright people I knew in college went into politics. They all sensed that, in terms of making change in the world, politics wasn’t the place to be in the late Sixties and Seventies. Politics wasn’t the place to be these past ten years if you wanted to try things out. I think your 20s are the time to be impatient, and a lot of these people’s idealism would have been deeply frustrated in politics; it would have been blunted.
On The Arms Race
We’re making the largest investment of capital that humankind has ever made in weapons over the next five years. We have decided as a society that that is where we should put our money, and that raises our deficits, and thus, the cost of our capital. Meanwhile, Japan, our nearest competitor on the technological frontier – the semiconductor industry, has shaped its tax structure, its entire society toward raising the capital to invest in that area. You get the feeling that connections aren’t made in America between things like building weapons and the fact that we might lose our semiconductor industry. We have to educate ourselves to that danger.
On Predicting the Future of Education in America
It’s going to be crucial that many of the larger decisions that we make — how we allot our resources, how we educate our children — be made with an understanding of the technical issues and the directions the technology is taking. And that hasn’t become happening yet. In education, for example, we have close to a national embarrassment. In a society where information and innovation are going to be pivotal, there really is a possibility that America can become a second-rate industrial nation if we lose the technological momentum and leadership we have now.
On Predicting Today In America
I think it takes a crisis for something to occur in America. And I believe there’s going to be a crisis of significant proportions as these problems our political leaders should have been addressing boil up to the surface.
On Predicting The Future of Computing
Thus far, we’re using our computers as pretty good servants. But the next thing is going to be computer as guide or agent. And that means that it’s going to do more in terms of anticipating what we want and doing it for us, noticing connections and patterns in what we do, asking us if this is some kind of generic thing that we like to do regularly, so that we have, for example, the concept of triggers. We’re going to be able to ask our computers to monitor things for us, and when certain conditions happen, are triggered, the computers will take certain actions and inform us after the fact.
On Predicting the Demise Of Radio Shack
Radio Shack is totally out of the picture. They have missed the boat. The sophistication of the computer buyer passed Radio Shack without their really realizing it. I don’t anticipate that they’re going to recover again and become a major player.
On Predicting His Future With Apple
I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll have sort of the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years where I’m not there, but I’ll always come back.
On Being An Artist
Don’t take it all too seriously. If you want to live your live in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be able to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.
On His Fortune
It’s a large responsibility to have more than you can spend in your lifetime — and I feel like I have to spend it. If you die, you certainly don’t want to leave a large amount to your children. It will just ruin their lives. And if you die without kids, it all goes to the Government. Almost everyone would think that he could invest the money back into humanity in a much more astute way than the government would.
The minute you have the means to take responsibility for your own dreams and can be held accountable for whether they come true or not, life is a lot tougher. It’s easy to have wonderful thoughts when the chance to implement them is remote. When you’ve gotten to a place where you at least have a chance of implementing your ideas, there’s a lot more responsibility in that.