Rare Steve Jobs speech from 1983 predicts iPhone, Google StreetView and better design for computers

Rare Steve Jobs speech from 1983 predicts iPhone, Google StreetView and better design for computers

The Center for Design Innovation shared the tape of a rare speech recently that I thought was a fascinating snapshot of the transitional period from mainframe to personal computing. Jobs is typically charismatic in the speech, begging the attending designers to help Apple make computers that actually look good.

This speech comes courtesy of a link inside 9to5Mac’s preview of Walter Isaacson’s Smithsonian cover story via Don Lehman.

“By 1986, we’re going to ship more computers that automobiles in this country,” Jobs said, adding that 3 million would be sold in 1983 alone.

“One of the reasons I’m here is that I need your help,” says Jobs. “If you look at computers, they look like garbage. All the great product designers are off designing automobiles or off designing buildings. But, hardly any of them are designing computers.”

“We’re going to sell those 3 million computers whether they look like a piece of shit, or they look great,” he goes on. “It doesn’t really matter because people are going to suck this stuff up no matter what they look like. And it doesn’t really cost any more money to make them look great.”

Jobs stresses that computers are going to be this ‘new object’ that are going to be in our work and home environments. “And we have a shot to put a great object there…and if we don’t, we’re going to put another piece of junk object there.”

He also touches on the iPhone computing revolution, saying that “one of these days, when you have portable computers with radios stuck in them, you’ll be walking around Aspen and [retrieve your messages].”

He also talked about an MIT experiment that would eventually become Google’s StreetView feature:

MIT came out to Aspen 4 or 5 years ago…with a truck with a scanner on it, and they went down every single street and every single intersection…and photographed all of the buildings. And got this computer and a video disc and hooked them up together. And on the video screen, you see yourself looking down the street. And you touch the screen and there are arrows on the screen “walk forward” and it’s just like walking down the street…it’s an electronic map.

An Aspen movie map rig from 1980

Jobs goes on to disect and decimate the design paradigms of the day and describe how they could be adapted to computers  It’s a great listen.

Apple, of course, went on to build some of the best looking computers of all time. The whole speech is well worth listening to, and there’s more insight on the CDI blog including a full video recording of a presentation to the CDI that includes a Tedx talk by Ryan Chin and discussion of the tape.

See also: The Apple patent Steve Jobs fought hard to protect, and his connection to its inventor

Image: Norman Seef

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