Sunday, October 7, 2012

Steve Jobs the Visionary

In 1983, Steve Jobs spoke at the International Design Conference in Aspen. His speech was about 20 minutes long with a question and answer session afterwards. Being that it was 1983, the only recording of the entire session is a cassette tape that recently surfaced. The entire recording was digitized and can be heard below.
Jobs was truly a visionary. The predictions he makes are spooky; not just because a lot of them are true, but because some of them have not yet come true and as fantastic as they may have sounded back in 1983, don't sound so far fetched to today's ear.
Following are three excerpts from his Aspen speech--taken word for ward--that struck me as particularly visionary.
On comparing the medium of communicating by telephone versus the new method of communicating by “electronic mail.

“ . . . [T]he most interesting thing that’s different Is the process of communication. When I talk on the telephone with any one we both have to be on the phone at the same time. When I am working or when I want to send something to somebody with a computer terminal--I want to do a drawing and zip it over, and put it in their mail box--they don’t need to be there. They can retrieve it at 12 a.m. in the morning, they can retrieve it three days later, they can be in New York and retrieve it. One of these days when we have portable computers with radio links they can be walking around Aspen and retrieve it.”
On the future (or better) uses for a randomly accessible optical video disc besides just movies.
“There’s a few experiments though that are starting to happen and you start to believe that five years, ten years from now it’s going to come into it’s own. A neat experiment happened right here in Aspen. Uh, MIT came out to Aspen about four five year--I think about four years ago--and they had this truck with this camera on it and they went down every single street, photographed every single intersection in every single street in Aspen. They photographed all the buildings. And they've got this computer and this video disc hooked up together and on the screen you see yourself looking down a street and you touch the screen and there are some arrows on the screen and you can touch walk forward and all of a sudden it's--it's just like you're walking forward in the street and you get to an intersection and you can stop and you can look right, and you can look straight, and you can look left, and you can decide which way you want to go--you can even go in some of the shops. It's an electronic map that gives you the feeling you're walking through Aspen. Then there s four little buttons in the corner because they came back and they did exactly the same thing all four seasons. So you can be looking down a street, hit winter all of a sudden get the same street with three feet of snow on it. It's really amazing, it's not incredibly useful, but it points--[laughter]--It points to some of the interactive nature of this new medium which is just starting to break out from movies and its going to take another five to ten years to evolve.”
Jobs wrapped up his speech by making the following prediction.

“When I was um, going to school . . . the thing that--that probably kept me out of jail was books. Because I could gp read what Aristotle wrote or what Plato wrote a--and uh, I didn't have to have an intermediary in the way. And a book was a phenomenal thing. It got right from the source to the destination without anything in the middle. The problem was you can't ask Aristotle a question. And I think as we look towards the next fifty to hundred years, if we really can come up with these machines that can capture an underlying spirit, or an underlying set of principles, or an underlying way of looking at the world, so when the next Aristotle comes around, maybe if he carries around one of these machines with him his whole life--his or her whole life--and types in all this stuff, then maybe someday after the person is dead and gone we can ask this machine, hey what--what would aristotle have said? What about this? And maybe we wouldn't get the right answer, but maybe we will. And that's really exciting to me and that's one of the reasons I am I doing what I am doing.”

Keep in mind, when he made this speech, Jobs was 28 years old. He was truly the renaissance man of the tech industry.

Steve Jobs, February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

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