Newsweek recently delved into their archives and pulled out this gem of an interview with Steve Jobs circa 1985 in the wake of Jobs’ unceremonious departure from Apple. The interview provides a good amount of insight into the psyche of Jobs, his take on Apple culture, and his overall philosophy as it pertains to technology and innovation.
On what Jobs does best:
Well, if I look at myself and ask, “What am I best at and what do I enjoy most doing?” I think what I’m best at is creating sort of new innovative products. That’s what I enjoy doing. I enjoy, and I’m best working with, a small team of talented people. That’s what I did with the Apple II, and that’s what I did with the Macintosh.
On the divide between being an entrepreneur and a businessman, Jobs explains that those with a knack for innovation often tend to be less skilled at managing the day-to-day minutia that comes with leading a large company.
You look back at the personal-computer industry, IBM and DEC and Hewlett-Packard weren’t the people that invented the personal computer. It took a bunch of rambunctious upstarts, working with very little resources but a certain amount of vision and commitment, to do it. And Apple has clearly now joined that status and the ranks of those other companies. It probably is true that the people who have been able to come up with the innovations in many industries are maybe not the people that either are best skilled at, or, frankly, enjoy running a large enterprise where they lose contact with the day-to-day workings of that innovative process. Dr. Land at Polaroid, he’s a perfect example.
I personally, man, I want to build things. I’m 30. I’m not ready to be an industry pundit. I got three offers to be a professor during this summer, and I told all of the universities that I thought I would be an awful professor. What I’m best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them. I respect the direction that Apple is going in. But for me personally, you know, I want to make things. And if there’s no place for me to make things there, then I’ll do what I did twice before. I’ll make my own place. You know, I did it in the garage when Apple started, and I did it in the metaphorical garage when Mac started.
Jobs’ philosophy on innovation:
You know, my philosophy is—it’s always been very simple. And it has its flaws, which I’ll go into. My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that’s my perspective, that everything starts with a great product. And that has its flaws. Ihave certainly been accused of not listening to the customers enough. And I think there is probably a certain amount of that that’s valid.
And perhaps somewhat foretelling given his current medical leave of absence, Jobs explains, in a round about way, why the Apple of 1985 was not going to have a problem carrying on in his absence.
To me, Apple exists in the spirit of the people that work there, and the sort of philosophies and purpose by which they go about their business. So if Apple just becomes a place where computers are a commodity item and where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that man has ever invented, then I’ll feel I have lost Apple. But if I’m a million miles away and all those people still feel those things and they’re still working to make the next great personal computer, then I will feel that my genes are still in there.
Here, Jobs opines on his “hard to deal with” reputation:
You know, I’m not a 62-year-old statesman that’s traveled around the world all his life. So I’m sure that there was a situation when I was 25 that if I could go back, knowing what I know now, I could have handled much better. And I’m sure I’ll be able to say the same thing when I’m 35 about the situation in 1985. I can be very intense in my convictions. And I don’t know; all in all, I kind of like myself and I’m not that anxious to change.