Photo: Landmark Cinemas
If you can’t get enough of Steve Jobs, here’s one more chance for you: next week, movie theatres around the country will air a 50-minute interview with Jobs recorded in 1995.Eighteen months before Jobs rejoined Apple, journalist Robert Cringely interviewed him for a PBS documentary on Silicon Valley, “Triumph of the Nerds.” They only used about 10 minutes of the interview in the show, and the tapes got lost in transit and were thought to be gone forever.
Then, a couple weeks ago, a producer discovered a VHS tape containing the full interview in his garage in London. It’s going to air on November 16 and 17 in Landmark movie theatres around the U.S.
The most striking thing is to see Jobs in good health and shaggy head of hair, with his trademark intense stare in full effect.
A lot of the anecdotes are covered in Walter Isaacson’s biography, but hearing Jobs say some of these things in his own voice is priceless. Here are some great moments where his brilliance and spiky personality shine through:
- The blue boxes he and Woz sold: “We put a little note in the bottom of them and our logo was ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands.'” [laughs]
- After selling Apple’s first 50 computers: “We had the classic Marxian profit realisation crisis in that our profit wasn’t in a liquid currency, our profit was in 50 computers sitting in the corner.”
- How to run a business: “In business a lot of things are, I call it, folklore. They’re done because they were done yesterday and the day before. So what that means is if you’re willing to ask a lot of questions and think about things and work very hard, you can learn business pretty fast. It’s not the hardest thing in the world.”
- Everybody should learn programming: “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, should learn a computer language, because it teaches you how to think. It’s like going to law school. I don’t think anybody should be a lawyer, but going to law school can actually be useful because it teaches you how to think in a certain way….I view computer science as a liberal art.”
- Why monopolies collapse: “The product people get driven out of the decision making forums, and the companies forget what it means to make great products. The product sensibility, the product genius that brought them to that monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product versus a bad product….They really have no feeling in their hearts usually about wanting to help their customers.” [He was talking about Xerox and IBM, not Microsoft — at least not directly.]
- On execution: “John Sculley got a very serious disease. I’ve seen other people get it too. It’s the disease of thinking that getting a really great idea is 90% of the work….The problem with that is there’s a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product. As you evolve that great idea it changes and grows.”
- Why he is sometimes so hard on employees: “When you get really good people they know they’re really good and you don’t have to baby people’s egos so much….The most important thing you can do for somebody who’s really good and is really being counted on is to point out when their work isn’t good enough.”
- On Apple in 1995. “Apple’s dying a very painful death. It’s on a glide slope to die. The reason is, when I walked out the door at Apple we had a 10-year lead on everybody else in the industry. The Macintosh was 10 years ahead. We watched Microsoft take 10 years to catch up with it. The reason they could catch up with it is because Apple stood still. The Macintosh that’s shipping today is 25% different than the Macintosh when I left….I don’t really think it’s reversible at this point.”
- Microsoft: “They have two characteristics. They’re very strong opportunists — and I don’t mean that in a bad way. And two, they’re like the Japanese, they just keep on coming.”
- The Web: “The Web is going to be profound in what it does to our society. About 15% of goods and services are sold via catalogues or television. All of that is going to the Web and more….As we look back 10 years from now the Web is going to be the defining technology, the defining social moment in technology.”
There’s a lot more, too, including Jobs’ famous quote about Microsoft having no taste, which aired in the original show.
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