Steve Jobs Interview in Playboy – 24 years later

Tue, Jan 27, 2009

Apple History, News

Playboy recently published online an interview they conducted with Steve Jobs in January of 1985.  The interview offers a unique perspective into the mind of a then 29 year old Steve Jobs as he gives his thoughts and opinions on a broad number of topics ranging from how he met Steve Wozniak, his travels in India, being a young multi-millionaire, and his thoughts on where computers would take us in the future.

In one excerpt, the article tells a story of Jobs attending a party and showing off Apple’s new Macintosh to an interested kid and to a few adults.  When asked why Jobs was seemingly happier in showing off the computer to the kid as opposed to the adults, Jobs responded –

“Older people sit down and ask, “What is it?” but the boy asks, “What can I do with it?””

Below are some more excerpts from the interview which is a highly recommended read.

Jobs on why people will buy home computers in the future:

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.

Jobs on why the Lisa failed:

First of all, it was too expensive—about ten grand. We had gotten Fortune 500-itis, trying to sell to those huge corporations, when our roots were selling to people.

Jobs on what it takes to create an “insanely great product”:

How come the Mac group produced Mac and the people at IBM produced the PCjr? 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.

Wow.  If you look at interviews with Jobs and other Apple executives 20 years later, it’s clear that the spirit of Apple from 1985 still permeates through the company today.   That’s pretty rare for any company, let alone a company in the fast moving world of tech.

Jobs on why the computer industry is dominated by young people:

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 rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing. Of course, there are some people who are innately curious, forever little kids in their awe of life, but they’re rare.

Jobs on working for HP as a teenager:

When I was 12 or 13, I wanted to build something and I needed some parts, so I picked up the phone and called Bill Hewlett—he was listed in the Palo Alto phone book. He answered the phone and he was real nice. He chatted with me for, like, 20 minutes. He didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett-Packard on the line, assembling frequency counters. Assembling may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven.

Jobs on meeting Steve Wozniak:

I met Woz when I was 13, at a friend’s garage. He was about 18. He was, like, the first person I met who knew more electronics than I did at that point. We became good friends, because we shared an interest in computers and we had a sense of humor. We pulled all kinds of pranks together… Like making a huge flag with a giant one of these on it [gives the finger]. The idea was that we would unfurl it in the middle of a school graduation. Then there was the time Wozniak made something that looked and sounded like a bomb and took it to the school cafeteria. We also went into the blue-box business together.

Jobs on his then-relationship with Woz:

When you work with somebody that close and you go through experiences like the ones we went through, there’s a bond in life. Whatever hassles you have, there is a bond. And even though he may not be your best friend as time goes on, there’s still something that transcends even friendship, in a way. Woz is living his own life now. He hasn’t been around Apple for about five years. But what he did will go down in history.

Jobs on Radio Shack:

Radio Shack is totally out of the picture. They have missed the boat. Radio Shack tried to squeeze the computer into their model of retailing, which in my opinion often meant selling second-rate products or low-end products in a surplus-store environment. The sophistication of the computer buyer passed Radio Shack by without their really realizing it. Their market shares dropped through the floor. I don’t anticipate that they’re going to recover and again become a major player.

Jobs on his future at Apple:

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.

This quote from Jobs seems somewhat prophetic, in hindsight, as Jobs would be ousted from the company just 3 months after the interview in Playboy was published.  Again, I encourage you to read the full interview.  It’s extremely long, but extremely informative and well worth a read.

It can be found over here.


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