Steve Jobs on How Computers Work, 1983

This past weekend I listened to a 1983 talk by Steve Jobs [via Matt Mullenweg].

It is remarkable to hear he could explain how computers worked and why they are so amazing to people who understood very little about technology.

Business development is about seeing the future before it happens, and the capability to build a roadmap to get you there. He projected a software radio station for understanding software and understood the complexities of achieving voice recognition.

Jobs went beyond visualizing inventions and being able to communicate with a non technical audience crisply through the use of analogies. Human nature is what makes marketing both interesting and challenging. 

Some points he makes in the talk#:

  • He mentions that computers are so fast they are like magic. (he later called the iPad “magical” — see this post on Apple brand evangelists for my thoughts on the launch).
  • He states that in a few years people will be spending more time interacting with personal computers than with cars. It seems so obvious now, but hardly a given back then.
  • He equates society’s level of technology familiarity to being on a “first date” with personal computers.
  • He recognized that technology would continue to evolve in the near future as would people’s comfort level with it. In hindsight, once it became dominant the PC industry stood relatively still while Jobs was busy planning “the next big thing”.
  • He confidently talks about the personal computer being a new medium of communication (before networking was commonplace or there was any inkling of the Internet going mainstream). Yet he specifically talks about early e-mail systems and how it is re-shaping communication. He matter-of-factly states that when we have portable computers with radio links, people could be walking around anywhere and pick up their e-mail (this is 1983, at least 20 years before the era of mobile computing).
  • He discusses early networking and the mess of different protocols that existed at the time, predicting that we were about 5 years away from “solving” networking in the office and 10-15 years from solving networking in the home. (as Marcel Brown says in his thoughtful post, and I agree, he was pretty much dead-on).
  • And more.

His brilliance was how these developments would world together, and how they would fit into people's lives. I particularly liked the lovely story about the Italian family that asked if they could speak Italian on their line.

Give it a listen — it's a good use of your time.


[my tribute to the visionary]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.