Liberal Arts Machines
The folks at the Internet Archive recently added an obscure 1983 talk by Steven Jobs. Jobs was speaking to a group of designers, most of whom didn’t own personal computers. He mentions this new thing called electronic mail that he’s sure will change the way we communicate. It’s pretty remarkable how much he got right:
- Jobs predicted we’d be spending more time with computers than cars in a few years.
- He notes that it doesn’t cost extra to make the computer object attractive, and that the computers of the day “look like shit.” Jobs believes that computers should look nice, since they will soon be sitting in our work, education, and home environments.
- He talks about email reshaping communication, and envisions “portable computers” that use radio waves to connect wirelessly to networks and will allow you to check your email while walking around.
- He talks about networking and infrastructure, adding that we’re 5 years away from “solving” the problem of networking in business contexts and 10-15 years from networking being common in households.
- He envisions a business model of software “sampling” before consumers buy. He also talks about the fact that software is digital, and therefore having physical distribution is unnecessary.
- Mentions an MIT project that, in essence, is what we know as Google Maps street view.
The talk is filled with great quotes, but my favorite came during the Q&A session and seemed to capture the essence of the computing industry at the time:
“We’re solving the problem of putting some liberal arts into these machines.”