In 1995 Robert Cringeley, a tech expert and writer who once worked for Steve Jobs interviewed the Apple-co-founder and other Silicon Valley pioneers for a PBS miniseries, Triumph of the Nerds. He spent more than 60 minutes with Jobs, who at that time was ten years out from his wrenching ouster from Apple. But less than ten minutes of the wide-ranging and provocative interview made it into the PBS show. That ten minute clip is considered one of the best TV interviews Jobs ever gave. The master tapes for the other 59 minutes went missing until recently and now, dusted off and with a preamble from Cringeley to explain the back story, the full unedited interview will play at theaters around the country including at the Ritz Bourse, two days only Wed., Nov. 16 and Thurs., Nov. 17. This is not for nerds only. Jobs was one of the most game changing individuals of his time, maybe of all time. He may have been a tweakier, as Malcolm Gladwell dubs him but he tweaked like a genius and he had big thoughts about culture, about human beings, and about the place tools play to shape culture and lives. See the movie’s trailer on the jump page. And see the movie–it’s great!
Jobs was famously a hard interview but here he is at ease in a far-ranging back and forth that runs for 70 minutes without interruption. Here’s a few tidbits.
At age 12 I called up Bill Hewlett (of Hewlett-Packard). ‘Hi I’m Steve Jobs and I’m building a [frequency something or other]…He listened and he gave me the parts and he gave me a job in the summer.
About raising money to build the printed circuit board for the Apple 2 computer
I sold my VW bus (this is California in the 1970s) and he (business partner Steve Wozniak) sold his calculator.
About learning how to do business when he knew nothing about running a business.
I always asked why? Why do you do this? I found people in business don’t know. [They do things because it’s always been done that way.] Business is a lot of folklore and you don’t need to do it that way.
I think everyone should learn computer programming. It teaches you how to think…I view computer science as a liberal art.
How does it feel to be rich?
I was worth over $1 mllion when I was 21…and $100 million when I was 25….It wasn’t that important. I never did it for the money. Money is wonderful. It allows you to do things. But the most important is the company, the people, the products.
Designing a product is keeping 5,000 things in your brain and figuring out how to make them fit together and work. That process is the magic.….It’s not one person. People like symbols so I’m the symbol.
About his ouster at Apple in 1985
It’s very painful. I’m not sure I want to talk about it. What can I say. I hired the wrong guy (John Scully). he destroyed everything I’d worked for for ten years. he got on a rocket ship and got confused and thought he built it …and he crashed it.”
About Apple in 1995
Apple is dying today….I don’t think it’s reversible.
Microsoft’s orbit was made possible by a boost of IBM….They are very strong opportunists and I don’t mean that in a bad way, and they keep on coming. The problem with Microsoft is they have no taste. I mean in a big way. They don’t think original ideas and don’t bring culture in. [He gives an example about proportionally-spaced type fonts.] I have no problem with their success, they’ve earned it. But their products are third rate, pedestrian and have no spirit. Most of their customers don’t have it either.
It’s better for the species if people grow up with better things. Mictrosoft is McDonalds.
About the future ten years out
Two exciting things: 1. The web. It’s a fulfillment of the dreams that computers will be the tool for communication. 2. It’s exciting that Microsoft doesn’t own it…Goods and services will be on the web. The smallest company in the world can look as large as the largest company.
What drives you?
…[Tells story about a human on a bicycle being more efficient than the condor, which is considered the most efficient animal]…Humans build things. Of all the inventions of humans, the computer will rank near if not at the top. It’s the most awesome tool that we’ve invented.
Are you a hippie or a nerd?
Clearly a hippie. And all the people I work with would be too.
Ask yourself what is a hippie? I saw a lot of it in the 70s in my back yard (California). You see that something is going on outside your career. Life isn’t about what your parents are doing. It causes people to want to be poets and not bankers. That same spirit can be put into products. People love it! You can feel it. The people I work with haven’t worked with computers to work with computers. it’s to share something with other people. This is the medium I can say something in.