Extracts from a 1985 Steve Jobs Playboy interview
"[O]ur Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt light bulb to run and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now? This revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution. We’re on the forefront."
"Computers are actually pretty simple. We’re sitting here on a bench in this café. Let’s assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instructions. ... If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this café, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I’d think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. That’s exactly what a computer does. It takes these very, very simple-minded instructions ... but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic."
"That’s a simple explanation, and the point is that people really don’t have to understand how computers work. Most people have no concept of how an automatic transmission works, yet they know how to drive a car. You don’t have to study physics to understand the laws of motion to drive a car. You don’t have to understand any of this stuff to use Macintosh—but you asked."
"A computer is the most incredible tool we’ve ever seen. It can be a writing tool, a communications center, a supercalculator, a planner, a filer and an artistic instrument all in one, just by being given new instructions, or software, to work from. There are no other tools that have the power and versatility of a computer. We have no idea how far it’s going to go. Right now, computers make our lives easier. They do work for us in fractions of a second that would take us hours. They increase the quality of life, some of that by simply automating drudgery and some of that by broadening our possibilities. As things progress, they’ll be doing more and more for us."
"The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into 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."
"People talked about putting a telegraph on every desk in America to improve productivity. But it wouldn’t have worked. It required that people learn this whole sequence of strange incantations, Morse code, dots and dashes, to use the telegraph. It took about 40 hours to learn. The majority of people would never learn how to use it."
"So, fortunately, in the 1870s, Bell filed the patents for the telephone. It performed basically the same function as the telegraph, but people already knew how to use it. Also, the neatest thing about it was that besides allowing you to communicate with just words, it allowed you to sing."
"We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were 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 carried all the way through."
"You know, Dr. Edwin Land was a troublemaker. He dropped out of Harvard and founded Polaroid. Not only was he one of the great inventors of our time but, more important, he saw the intersection of art and science and business and built an organization to reflect that."
"The way it’s going to work out is that in our business, in order to continue to be one of the major contributors, we’re going to have to be a ten-billion-dollar company. That growth is required for us to keep up with the competition. Our concern is how we become that, rather than the dollar goal, which is meaningless to us."
"We are aware that we are doing something significant. We’re here at the beginning of it and we’re able to shape how it goes. Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future. Most of the time, we’re taking things. Neither you nor I made the clothes we wear; we don’t make the food or grow the foods we eat; we use a language that was developed by other people; we use another society’s mathematics. Very rarely do we get a chance to put something back into that pool. I think we have that opportunity now. And no, we don’t know where it will lead. We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here."
"Our approach is to think of them not as businesses but as collections of people. We want to qualitatively change the way people work. We don’t just want to help them do word processing faster or add numbers faster. We want to change the way they can communicate with one another. We’re seeing five-page memos get compressed to one-page memos because we can use a picture to express the key concept. We’re seeing less paper flying around and more quality of communication. And it’s more fun. There’s always been this myth that really neat, fun people at home all of a sudden have to become very dull and boring when they come to work. It’s simply not true. If we can inject that liberal-arts spirit into the very serious realm of business, I think it will be a worthwhile contribution. We can’t even conceive of how far it will go."
"We think that computers are the most remarkable tools that humankind has ever come up with, and we think that people are basically tool users. So if we can just get lots of computers to lots of people, it will make some qualitative difference in the world. What we want to do at Apple is make computers into appliances and get them to tens of millions of people. That’s simply what we want to do."
"If for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years."
"The clubs were based around a computer kit called the Altair. It was so amazing to all of us that somebody had actually come up with a way to build a computer you could own yourself. That had never been possible. Remember, when we were in high school, neither of us had access to a computer mainframe. We had to drive somewhere and have some large company take a benevolent attitude toward us and let us use the computer. But now, for the first time, you could actually buy a computer. The Altair was a kit that came out around 1975 and sold for less than $400."
"Even though it was relatively inexpensive, not everyone could afford one. That’s how the computer clubs started. People would band together and eventually become a club."
"The Apple I was for hobbyists?"
"Completely. We sold only about 150 of them, ever. It wasn’t that big a deal, but we made about $95,000 and I started to see it as a business besides something to do. Apple I was just a printed circuit board. There was no case, there was no power supply; it wasn’t much of a product yet. It was just a printed circuit board. You had to go out and buy transformers for it. You had to buy your own keyboard."
"The real jump with the Apple II was that it was a finished product. It was the first computer that you could buy that wasn’t a kit. It was fully assembled and had its own case and its own keyboard, and you could really sit down and start to use it. And that was the breakthrough of the Apple II: that it looked like a real product."
"The difference was that you didn’t have to be a hardware hobbyist with the Apple II. You could be a software hobbyist. That was one of the key breakthroughs with the Apple II: realizing that there were a whole lot more people who wanted to play with a computer, just like Woz and me, than there were people who could build their own. That’s what the Apple II was all about. Still, the first year, we sold only 3000 or 4000."
"Even that sounds like a lot for a few guys who barely knew what they were doing."
"It was giant! We did about $200,000 when our business was in the, garage, in 1976. In 1977, about $7,000,000 in business. I mean, it was phenomenal! And in 1978, we did $17,000,000. In 1979, we did $47,000,000. That’s when we all really sensed that this was just going through the rafters. In 1980, we did $117,000,000. In 1981, we did $335,000,000. In 1982, we did $583,000,000. In 1983, we did $985,000,000, I think. This year, it will be a billion and a half."
"The neatest thing was, by 1979, I was able to walk into classrooms that had 15 Apple computers and see the kids using them. And those are the kinds of things that are really the milestones."
"AT&T’s products per se have never been of the highest quality. All you have to do is go look at their telephones. They’re somewhat of an embarrassment. But they do possess great technology in their research labs. Their challenge is to learn how to commercialize that technology. Also, they have to learn about consumer marketing. I think that they will do both of those things, but it’s going to take them years."
"Certainly, the earlier programming, getting a programming language on a microprocessor chip, was a real breakthrough. VisiCalc was a breakthrough, because that was the first real use of computers in business, where business people could see tangible benefits of using one. Before that, you had to program your own applications, and the number of people who want to program is a small fraction—one percent. Coupled with VisiCalc, the ability to graph things, graph information, was important, and so was Lotus."
"Word processing is the most universally needed application and one of the easiest to understand. It’s probably the first use to which most people put their personal computer. There were word processors before personal computers, but a word processor on a personal computer was more of an economic breakthrough, while there was never any form of VisiCalc before the personal computer."
"What [necessary software doesn't exist for the Macintosh] the people at colleges are going to write themselves."
"In a society where information and innovation are going to be pivotal, there really is the possibility that America can become a second-rate industrial nation if we lose the technical momentum and leadership we have now."
"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’s where we should put our money, and that raises the deficits and, thus, the cost of our capital. Meanwhile, Japan, our nearest competitor on the next 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."
"I saw a video tape that we weren’t supposed to see. It was prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By watching the tape, we discovered that, at least as of a few years ago, every tactical nuclear weapon in Europe manned by U.S. personnel was targeted by an Apple II computer. Now, we didn’t sell computers to the military; they went out and bought them at a dealer’s, I guess. But it didn’t make us feel good to know that our computers were being used to target nuclear weapons in Europe. The only bright side of it was that at least they weren’t [Radio Shack] TRS-80s! Thank God for that."
"The point is that tools are always going to be used for certain things we don’t find personally pleasing. And it’s ultimately the wisdom of people, not the tools themselves, that is going to determine whether or not these things are used in positive, productive ways."
"Thus far, we’re pretty much using our computers as good servants. We ask them to do something, we ask them to do some operation like a spread sheet, we ask them to take our key strokes and make a letter out of them, and they do that pretty well. And you’ll see more and more perfection of that—computer as servant. But the next thing is going to be computer as guide or agent. And what that means is 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 sort of generic thing we’d like to do regularly, so that we’re going to have, as an 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."
"I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have 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 when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back. And that’s what I may try to do."
"Don’t take it all too seriously. If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. What are we, anyway? Most of what we think we are is just a collection of likes and dislikes, habits, patterns. At the core of what we are is our values, and what decisions and actions we make reflect those values."
"That is why it’s hard doing interviews and being visible: As you are growing and changing, the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you that it thinks you are, the harder it is to continue to be an artist."
"I’m convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar."
"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."
"Obviously, one of the great challenges of an education is to teach us how to think. What we’re finding is that computers are actually going to affect the quality of thinking as more and more of our children have these tools available to them. Humans are tool users. What’s really incredible about a book is that you can read what Aristotle wrote. You don’t have to have some teacher’s interpretation of Aristotle. You can certainly get that, but you can read exactly what Aristotle wrote. That direct transmission of thoughts and ideas is one of the key building blocks of why we are where we are, as a society. But the problem with a book is that you can’t ask Aristotle a question. I think one of the potentials of the computer is to somehow…capture the fundamental, underlying principles of an experience."
"The original video game, Pong,captured the principles of gravity, angular momentum and things like that, to where each game obeyed those underlying principles, and yet every game was different—sort of like life. That’s the simplest example. And what computer programming can do is to capture the underlying principles, the underlying essence, and then facilitate thousands of experiences based on that perception of the underlying principles. Now, what if we could capture Aristotle’s world view—the underlying principles of his world view? Then you could actually ask Aristotle a question. OK. You might say it would not be exactly what Aristotle was. It could be all wrong. But maybe not."
"Part of the challenge, I think, is to get these tools to millions and tens of millions of people and to start to refine these tools so that someday we can crudely, and then in a more refined sense, capture an Aristotle or an Einstein or a Land while he’s alive. Imagine what that could be like for a young kid growing up. Forget the young kid—for us! And that’s part of the challenge."
"That’s for someone else. It’s for the next generation. I think an interesting challenge in this area of intellectual inquiry is to grow obsolete gracefully, in the sense that things are changing so fast that certainly by the end of the Eighties, we really want to turn over the reins to the next generation, whose fundamental perceptions are state-of-the-art perceptions, so that they can go on, stand on our shoulders and go much further. It’s a very interesting challenge, isn’t it? How to grow obsolete with grace."