A retrospective view of a 1996 Steve Jobs interview

3 minute read

I know it’s easy to sit back and criticize what someone said 11 years ago. That’s why I won’t criticize Steve Jobs for what he said, rather, I’d like to show the difference of what the prediction was and what the reality is at the moment - regardless of who said it.

On a side note: It doesn’t matter if you like Apple, Steve Jobs or any of the associated parties, Jobs is an incredible innovator and one of the great digital-minds of the 20th (and turns out 21st) century. In all honesty, I personally do not “like” Apple’s machines and Operating System but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like the innovation that they have brought about in the field of computing and computer software - it is simply mind boggling when you research it.

This blog post (remember that it’s an informal blog post) is a personal view of an interview that Steve Jobs gave to Wired Magazine in 1996 and was published online at Aether.com. Interestingly enough, 1996 was the year that Apple bough NeXT (Jobs’ company at the time) and informally hired Jobs back. This interview precedes those events. I’ll only pick things that are somewhat relevant to this site or that I find interesting; this is a blog, you know?

The desktop computer industry is dead

This will be the first thing that’ll pop out of the page. While at first this might sound like a ridiculous claim, you must place it in context with the entire section. For someone who was at the birth of Desktop computing, the 90’s might have seemed extremely dull in comparison to the 70’s and 80’s when many new things started to come into existence (The PC, CD-ROM, color displays, GUI, the Mouse, HDDs became cheaper, etc.).

When I went to Xerox PARC in 1979, I saw a very rudimentary graphical user interface. It wasn’t complete. It wasn’t quite right. But within 10 minutes, it was obvious that every computer in the world would work this way someday.

While this view was shared by competitors it has proven to be about 99% right. Almost every computer in the world works with some sore of user interface albeit underdeveloped. With the exception of pure Unix-based machines and low-level terminals, I can’t think of any other Operating System that doesn’t have an integrated GUI.

Objects are just going to be the way all software is going to be written in five years or - pick a time. It’s so compelling.

It took about five years for software developers to completely grasp Object Oriented Programming and to apply it correctly so in this regards Jobs was right. OOP has become the norm. While there are still many programmers out there that write procedural code, OOP has largely taken over — and that’s a good thing in most cases.

The Web is not going to change the world, certainly not in the next 10 years.

Jobs was a bit off here. While the dot-com boom didn’t change the entire world, it did change the way that we use and look at the web in most parts of the worlds. I can’t think of many countries that don’t have internet access or people that have never heard of the internet besides underdeveloped or oppressed civilizations.

I don’t see most people using the Web to get more information.

While I do see Jobs’ point (he mentions information-overload and the ability to process information) we only tend to gather the information that we really care about and massive amounts of it. For example, Wikipedia is one of the most active websites on the internet used daily by a massive amount of people.

As to what’s now known as e-Commerce:

I think we’re still two years away.

A bit too optimistic but pretty accurate. Again, the dot-com boom pretty much exploded e-commerce into our lives which happened around 2000-2001.

End thought: The thing that struck me most in this interview was the amount of expectancy in regards to technology that Jobs has. It’s something to think about. “Am I as an end-user the catalyst of innovation?” or “If I expect more, will I get more?” It should be that way but it often isn’t. Companies don’t really seem to listen that much to their customers with the rogue exception here and there. In the end Jobs seems to be pretty accurate with his predictions of the future I’d like to say more so than another software icon but then I’d just be trolling around.

Jobs on the topic of superior European washing machines:

I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years.

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