Here is the full transcript [Edited version] of the YouTube video entitled Steve Jobs: Lost Interview (1990). We produce here the transcript of the tape for the benefit of our readers.
[Audio starts abruptly]
Interviewer: What is it about this machine? Why is this machine so interesting? Why has it been so influential?
Steve Jobs: Hmm, I’ll give you my point of view on it. I remember reading a magazine article a long time ago when I was twelve years ago maybe, in I think it was Scientific American. I’m not sure. And the article proposed to measure the efficiency of locomotion for lots of species on planet earth to see which species was the most efficient at getting from point A to point B. And they measured the kilocalories that each one expended. So they ranked them all and I remember that the Condor won – the Condor was the most efficient at getting from point A to point B. And humankind, the crown of creation came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. So that didn’t look so great.
But let me do this over again, because I am just not sure.
Steve Jobs: I remember reading an article when I was about twelve years old. I think it might have been Scientific American where they measured the efficiency of locomotion for all these species on planet earth. How many kilocalories did they expend to get from point A to point B? And the Condor 1 came in at the top of the list, surpassed everything else. And humans came in about a third of the way down the list which was not such a great showing for the crown of creation. And — but somebody there had the imagination to test the efficiency of a human riding a bicycle. A human riding a bicycle blew away the Condor, all the way off the top of the list. And it made a really big impression on me that we humans are tool builders. And that we can fashion tools that amplify these inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes. And so for me, a computer has always been a bicycle of the mind. Something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.
And I think we’re just at the early stages of this tool. Very early stages. And we’ve come only a very short distance. And it’s still in its formation, but already we’ve seen enormous changes. I think that’s nothing compared to what’s coming in the next hundred years.
Interviewer: In program six, we’re going to look at some of the past predictions of why people have been so wrong about the future. And one of the notions is that today’s vision of a standalone computer is just as limited as those past visions of it being only a number cruncher. What’s the difference philosophically between a network machine and a standalone machine?
Steve Jobs: Let me answer that question a slightly different way. There have been, if you look at why the majority of people have bought these things so far, there have been two real explosions that have propelled the industry forward. The first one really happened in 1977. And it was the spreadsheets. I remember when Dan Fylstra who ran the company that marketed the first spreadsheet, walked into my office at Apple one day and pulled out this disk from his vest pocket and said, “I have this incredible new program. I call it a visual calculator.” And it became VisiCalc. And that’s what really drove, propelled the Apple to…to the success it achieved more than any other single event. And with the invention of Lotus 123, and I think it was 1982, that’s what really propelled the IBM PC to the level of success that it achieved. So that was the first explosion was the spreadsheet.
The second really big explosion in our industry has been desktop publishing. Happened in 1985 with the Macintosh and the LaserWriter printer. And at that point people could start to do on their desktops things that only typesetters and printers could do prior to that. And that’s been a very big revolution in publishing. And those are really, those two explosions have been the only two real major revolutions which have caused a lot of people to buy these things and use them.
The third one is starting to happen now. And the third one is let’s do for human to human communication what spreadsheets did for financial planning and what desktop publishing did for publishing. Let’s revolutionize it using these desktop devices. And we’re already starting to see the signs of that. As an example in an organization, we’re starting to see that as business conditions change faster and faster with each year, we cannot change our management hierarchical organization very fast relative to the changing business conditions. We can’t have somebody working for a new boss every week. We also can’t change our geographic organization very fast. As a matter of fact even slower than the management one. We can’t be moving people around the country every week. But we can change an electronic organization like that. And what’s starting to happen is as we start to link these computers together with sophisticated networks and great user interfaces, we’re starting to be able to create clusters of people working on a common task in a.. literally in fifteen minutes worth of setup. And these fifteen people can work together extremely efficiently no matter where they are geographically. And no matter who they work for hierarchically. And these organizations can live for as long as they’re needed and then vanish. And we’re finding we can reorganize our companies electronically very rapidly. And that’s the only type of organization that can begin to keep pace with the changing business conditions.
And I believe that this collaborative model has existed in higher education for a long time. But we’re starting to see it applied into the commercial world as well. And this is going to be the third major revolution that these desktop computers provide is revolutionizing human to human communication in group work. We call it interpersonal computing. In the 1980s, we did personal computing. And now we’re going to extend that as we network these things to interpersonal computing.
Interviewer: Taking the long view now, what was the image of the computer in the mid 196Os or whenever you first saw one? And where are we now? What was the – how did the PC enact that change?
Steve Jobs: I first saw my first computer when I was twelve. I saw my first computer when I was twelve. And it was at NASA. We had a local NASA center nearby. And it was a terminal, which was connected to a big computer somewhere and I got a timesharing account on it. And I was fascinated by this thing. And I saw my second computer a few years later which was really the first desktop computer ever made. It was made by Hewlett Packard. It was called the 9100-A. And it ran a language called BASIC. And it was very large. It had a very small cathode ray tube on it for display. And I got a chance to play with one of those maybe in 1968 or ‘69. And spent every spare moment I had trying to write programs for it. I was so fascinated by this. And so I was probably fairly lucky. And then my introduction to computers very rapidly moved from a terminal to within maybe twelve months or so, actually seeing one of the first, probably the first desktop computer ever…ever really produced. And so my point of view never really changed from being able to get my arms around it even though my arms probably didn’t quite fit around that first one.
Interviewer: What was the role — how have personal computers hanged the landscape of computers? I mean back then it was centralized power, it was in a mainframe. Now we have three times as much power at the fringe than we have in the center, five times as much power.
Steve Jobs: I am not the right person to ask.
Steve Jobs: Ask, Al.
Interviewer: How did the PC change the world?
Steve Jobs: Well, though the analogy is nowhere perfect and certainly one needs to factor out the environmental concerns of the analogy as well. There is a lot to be said for comparing it to going from trains, from passenger trains to automobiles. And the advent of the automobile gave us a personal freedom of transportation. In the same way the advent of the computer gave us the ability to start to use computers without having to convince other people that we needed to use computers. And the biggest effect of the personal computer revolution has been to allow millions and millions of people to experience computers themselves decades before they ever would have in the old paradigm. And to allow them to participate in the making of choices and controlling their own destiny using these tools.
But it has created problems. And the largest problems are that now that we have all these very powerful tools, we’re still islands and we’re still not really connecting these people using these powerful tools together. And that’s really been the challenge of the last few years and the next several years is how to connect these things back together so that we can rebuild a fabric of these things rather than just individual points f light if you will. And get the benefit of both, the passenger train and the automobile.
Interviewer: What’s the vision behind the NeXT machine? We’ve already covered this a little bit.
Steve Jobs: Everything that we’ve done in our — everything I’ve done with computers in my life has been along pretty much a single vector. And NeXT is just one more point on that same vector. Ah in this case what we observed was that the computing power we could give to an individual was an order magnitude more than the PCs we’re giving. In the sense that people want to do many things at once and you really need true multi tasking. We really did want to start to network these things together in very sophisticated networks. So the technology to build that in became available. And most important we saw a way to build a software system that was about ten times as powerful than any PC. And where new software could be created in a fourth of the time.
So we spent four years with fifty to hundred of the best software people we could find building this new software system. And it’s turned out beautifully.