We posted a link to a rare audio recording in August of Steve Jobs speaking at the 1983 International Design Conference in Aspen. A roughly 20-minute audio recording of Jobs’ speech was available from the Center for Design Innovation’s website. In the recording, Jobs predicted the explosion of the personal computer market, the need for better product designers, and the MIT project that would eventually contribute to Google’s StreetView. While we did not realize at the time, it turns out the audio recording is closer to an hour in length and includes a Q&A discussion following Jobs’ 20-minute prepared speech.
It turns out attendees were given cassette recordings from the conference. LifeLibertyTech.com got its hands on the full audio recording and shared it with 9to5Mac. The image above is courtesy of Arthur Boden, who also attended the conference, and it appears to be the only floating around of Steve Jobs speaking at the conference in 1983. During the previously unheard Q&A, when asked about voice recognition, Jobs talked about the difficulties of the technology, saying, “This stuff is hard.” He noted it is likely close to a decade away from reality. He also talks about wanting to get a computer like Lisa, which cost close to $10,000 at the time, into a book design for under $1,000 within 5 years to 7 years.
Other topics include: home networking, which Jobs correctly predicts was about 10 years away, Jobs’ vision of future pocket-size computers, and typefaces and graphic design.
Unfortunately, many of the questions are hard to make out, but you can mostly tell from Jobs’ answers what the topic of conversation is. The man who provided the audio recording to LifeLibertyTech, John Celuch of Inland Design, apparently met Jobs at the conference:
Incidentally, John met Steve Jobs at this conference. During their interaction Steve Jobs gave him something to put in a time capsule that was buried at the conference. To our knowledge this time capsule has yet to be dug up. I’ll share more on this in a future article.
Some highlights from the recording, courtesy of LifeLiberyTech below, and a download of the speech is available here:
- 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. Again, this is 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. Again, 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. He predicts that we were about 5 years away from “solving” networking in the office and 10-15 years from solving networking in the home. I’d say he was pretty much dead-on.
- He says Apple’s strategy is to “put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you that you can learn how to use in 20 minutes”. Does that sound like anything we are familiar with today? And they wanted to do it with a “radio link” so that people wouldn’t need to hook it up to anything to communicate with “larger databases” and other computers. Hmmm ….
- He compares the nascent software development industry to the record industry. He says that most people didn’t necessarily know what computer they wanted to buy. In contrast, when walking into a record store they definitely knew what music they liked. This was because they got free samples of songs by listening to the radio. He thought that the software industry needed something like a radio station so that people could sample software before they buy it. He believed that software distribution through traditional brick-and-mortar was archaic since software is digital and can be transferred electronically through phone lines. He foresees paying for software in an automated fashion over the phone lines with credit cards. I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds incredibly similar to the concept of the Apple App Store. Plus his comparison to the music industry just might be foreshadowing the iTunes store. You need to listen to the speech to hear the entirety of this passage for yourself.
- Right at the end of the Q&A session, a question is asked about voice recognition, which he believed was the better part of a decade away from reality. Given the context of Siri today, it is interesting to hear him talk about the difficultly of recognizing language vs voice because language is contextually driven. He says, “This stuff is hard”.