“The interesting thing about television is that it always seems to aim for the lowest common denominator.”
It’s a wonderfully acidic takedown, and it’s no shock to hear the notoriously brutal Steve Jobs throw it. What makes it particularly notable is that he says it to ABC News reporter Bob Brown in February 1981, in footage that was never intended for the public. The 25-year-old Apple co-founder poked fun at Brown’s profession as the two prepared for an interview that was preserved in unedited form and eventually digitized by ABC. At the time, Apple was less than five years old and Jobs was not yet very famous, although the company’s profile and his own had been considerably raised by Apple’s successful IPO December 12, 1980.
The video is a fascinating look at Steve Jobs becoming Steve Jobs. There you go, thanks to a YouTube account called Sir Mix-A-Lot Rare Music:
The helmeted brunette talks with Jobs for almost 20 minutes in the clip, apparently in Jobs’ office at Apple then headquartered on Bandley Drive in Cupertino. There is an Apple II computer on the desk with a photo of Barbara Jasinski, a friend of Jobs at the time. A blurred version of the Apple logo hangs on the wall. Because it’s raw footage, you can see the sausage of the TV segment in the making: At one point, Jobs asks Brown if they’re just chatting or if the official interview has begun. At the end, an unseen producer even feeds Brown her questions so he can ask them again from a different camera angle.
ABC records indicate the interview was taped on February 18, 1981. I’m reasonably confident it was fodder for a 20/20 newsmagazine segment, which mainly focused on the video game craze and aired on May 28 of the same year. (I’m not sure because I haven’t actually seen it, and I don’t know if anyone else has seen it in the last 41 years.) The Apple II computer was itself a pretty spectacular gaming machine, but the network seems to have sought out Jobs to counterbalance its interviews with people in the gaming industry, such as the founders of Activision – after all, Apple’s success has proven that computers at home were not just about entertainment.
the the oldest Steve Jobs’ YouTube video appears to be a clip of him getting ready for a previous interview, apparently on the San Francisco KGO television network in 1978. In it, he seems stunned at the prospect of appearing on television and says the prospect makes him want to vomit. By the time he sat down with Brown in 1981, he looked much the same — luxuriously shaggy, with oversized, cheesy glasses. But there is a much more confident presence, recognizable as the irreplaceable great communicator who will later unveil everything from macintosh to the NeXT computer to the iPhone.
Jobs’ answers to some of Brown’s questions are as simple as they are because they aren’t entirely off the cuff. At a time when most consumers had yet to encounter a personal computer in person, Jobs had become adept at portraying the importance of the PC convincingly and had his say. He liked to call computers a bike for the mind – here’s Steven Sinofsky’s story of this famous comparison– and also compared them to fractional horsepower motors. He even did it on a second ABC appearance around the same time: This one was with The night line Ted Koppel and took place on April 10, 1981, after Brown’s interview but before the 20/20 segment broadcast date. There are also echoes of these conversations in a Appearance of Jobs on The CBS Evening News of December 29, 1981although at this time he speaks of people being “seduced” by computers rather than focusing on their practicality in business and education.
Watching Jobs talk about Apple so early in its history, it’s tempting to look for oddly prescient statements about the company’s direction, for example, a statement that its ultimate goal was to give people a powerful personal computer. they could put in a pocket, oh, 2007. None of those videos from 1981 have anything quite so breathtaking. But Jobs describes the next decade of computer advancement for Brown in a way that has pretty much come true: He says computers will have to get much more sophisticated to be easier to use, and that they might end up costing more. Dear. This happened with both the Mac and its more expensive predecessor, the Lisa – two groundbreaking advances on the Apple II, which were in development in early 1981, but had yet to be announced.
As the February 1981 clip ends, Brown asks Jobs if he likes to vacation in the immediate area. Jobs says it’s been a long time since he took a vacation everywhere, then thinks : ” This is how I measure if I succeed . . . whether I can take off for three months – so far I have not succeeded. It sounds like humble boasting. But hopefully at some point in the next 30 years he stopped using the length of his vacation as a benchmark of what he had accomplished.