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"The Lost Interview" of Steve Jobs

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Shortly after Steve Jobs' death last month, a copy of a VHS tape that had long been thought lost was discovered in a London garage. On the tape was about 70 minutes of a 1995 conversation between Jobs and Robert Cringley, who used nine minutes of the footage in his PBS series Triumph of the Nerds that aired in 1996.

The master tape of the interview was lost while being shipped from London to Portland and thought to be gone forever, until Triumph director Paul Sen found the VHS copy in his garage a few weeks after Jobs' death. He did not have a copy of any of the 124 other interviews from the series.

Last night I went to a screening of Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, Cringley's entire unedited conversation released in various cities on Nov. 16 and 17 in Mark Cuban's Landmark Theaters. Cringley, whom Jobs hired and fired three times, had known Jobs almost 20 years at the time of the interview. Ten years earlier, in 1985, Apple CEO John Sculley had exiled Jobs from the company.

During the film, Jobs laments Apple's decline, predicting that it "isn't reversible." A 10-year stagnation in innovation had allowed Microsoft to catch up because, Jobs says, "Apple stood still." He blames the slide on poor company leadership and complacency fostered by a lack of competition.

"The Macintosh that's shipping today," Jobs says at one point, "is like 25 percent different than the day I left." He notes the ease with which monopolies or companies with substantial market share—like Apple in the 1980s and, later, Microsoft—become satisfied with simply persisting instead of innovating.

That many if not most monopolies are government-granted probably wasn't lost on Jobs, who compared the U.S. public education system to a monopoly in another 1995 interview, this one with the Smithsonian Institution:

What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country [with public education], is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said, "We don't care. We don't have to." And that's what a monopoly is. That's what IBM was in their day. And that's certainly what the public school system is. They don't have to care.

More recently, Jobs was infuriated by President Obama's obsession with "reasons why he can't get things done" instead of focusing on what's possible. Jobs also recently railed on Bill Gates, saying, "He'd be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once" and that Gates "just shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas."

"The only problem with Microsoft," Jobs says in The Lost Interview, "is they just have no taste." His feelings toward Microsoft and Gates illustrate his motivation for inventing and tweaking products that continue to better the lives of Apple customers. Most people were (and probably still are) content to use inelegant, frustrating devices and software. They don't know or don't care that there's a better way to process words than Word.

Jobs had a vision of creating tools that upgrade not only the way we do things like process words and communicate via phone but also improve, he hoped, humanity. "The way that we're going to ratchet up our species," he says, "is to take the best and spread it around to everybody so that everybody grows up with better things." An unceasing devotion to solving problems and creating new possibilities—an obsession with the idea that "there's got to be a better way"—consumed Jobs.

About two years after the "lost interview," Jobs would return to Apple, which was 90 days from bankruptcy at the time. He eventually transformed it into the most valuable company in America—after he transformed the way we operate computers, listen to music, use phones, and interact with each other and the world around us.

Read more Reason on Steve Jobs, and watch the The Lost Interview trailer below:

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  1. Jobs was a visionary who had to be eliminated.

    1. Oh please let this be the beginning of a conspiracy theory that Jobs was offed by…I’m not sure who, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

      1. Gates, of course!

        1. No it was that Blackberry guy.

      2. The guys who gave Chavez and Lulu cancer.

    2. Some people slowly kill themselves with smoking. Jobs did the same thing with carrots.

      Meanwhile, Woz will no doubt chug along to an old age on a diet of cheeseburgers and chili fries.

  2. Shut up monkey! No banana for you!

    1. Damn nested comments.

  3. The full quote was “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.” That was Lily Tomlin as “Ernestine,” back in the “Laugh-In” days, probably written by her very good buddy, Jane Wagner.

    1. ** Pound Pound **

      Just lost Peoria! Thhppt. Thhppt.

  4. There isn’t a better way to wordprocess than Word.

    The concept of “better” can be objectively measured, but that measurement has to be agent-relative. “Better – for whom?”

    I already know how to use Word. The increase in utility of using a different program would have to exceed the effort I would need to make to learn that program, or it’s not worth it – and Word remains the “better” option, for me, given my abilities and needs.

    You can make Apples as pretty as you like and they will never be “better”, for me, than a PC.

    That’s what the Apple geeks just don’t get. “Our product is a triumph of design!” So what? If I lose the 15 years of Excel and Access experience I’ve built up and have to learn to use a different spreadsheet and database prototyping program – or if I have to use badly ported Mac versions of Microsoft products – what good does the design triumph do me? None at all.

    1. Network effects. Every company I go to for the rest of my professional career is going to be using Word, Outlook, and Excel. (Probably MathCAD, too, but that’s not relevant). Why do I need to screw with a Mac? My work computers are going to be PCs unless the CAD paradigm shifts to Macs. That idea crashed and burned years ago.

    2. I like Open Office myself.

      1. As do I. Its missing some of the macro-bullshit that Office has, but that is a good thing, IMO.

        I wrote some courseware using vi. Editing latex was easier that way, for me.

      2. Never worked right for me. I stick with whatever Office version work gives me.

    3. Excel and Word existed on the Apple before the PC, IIRC. Excel on the PC is a badly ported version of a Macintosh product (admittedly, that was 25 years ago, theyve smoothed out the bad stuff over the years).

      And access….shudder.

      1. Glad it’s not just me. Access suuuuuuuucks.

      2. MySql is supposedly so much better – but not if I have to relearn everything to use it.

        Fuck that noise.

        It’s easier to build something in Access and then find some guy in Bangalore on Guru and pay him 10 cents to convert it.

        1. All you need to know to use mySQL is standard query language (otherwise known as sql).

          1. Not really.

            Many years ago I wanted to learn how to use SQL Server.

            I couldn’t even get started.

            What product do you buy that you can install on a computer and open and design a SQL table, and then design a query, and then design a form, and then upload the whole thing to where you want to host it?

            “Well, you don’t use a product to do that. You just write code.”

            No. Maybe YOU just write code. I don’t.

            Now MySql at least has MySql Workbench. But that also looks pretty hard to learn to use, when I already know how to use the Access design interface, and you can just convert the tables to MySql and the forms to VB when you’re done.

            1. “No. Maybe YOU just write code. I don’t.”

              THIS! I got out of programming 20 years ago, and if I never have to write another line of code, that’s dandy by me!

              Just give me shit I can figure out intuitively or with very little practice (like, oh, Microsoft Office) and we’re good to go.

              Although Access sucks BALLS, so I invent other shit to act “like” a database rather than work with that abortion. (mostly Excel)

            2. I suppose.

              I rtfm a lot.

            3. SQL Server Express, Fluffy. Go look it up. It’s free and has GUI tools.

              1. OK, I guess I will do that, but only because I trust your pizza opinions.

        2. Or you could use SQL Server Express.

          Access is a bastard child of databases. I suggest you go to MySQL or SQL Server Express–both free–so that you get away from the garbage that is Access SQL language.

          1. Strictly speaking, it’s Jet that is the problem.

            When you run an Access MDE on top of any other ODBC data source, you don’t get the Jet performance issues that plague Access when you use MDB’s or those newfangled ACCB’s or whatever the file extension is.

            But yeah, I guess I picked the wrong database system to learn, 15 years ago. But now I’m kinda stuck with it.

    4. I’m the last LaTeX user on earth.

      1. not even remotely true.

      2. I don’t know what field you are in, but every math journal paper I’ve read in the last 10 years is in LaTeX. Pretty sure most journals won’t even bother with your paper unless it’s in LaTeX these days.

      3. Nope, I still use it when they let me.

    5. Anybody else remember – and love – WordPerfect? Wonderful product.

      With that – gotta agree with Fluffy 100%. I started out in programming RIGHT when PC’s were born (my first REAL job!), and have been on PC’s ever since. So I never got the Mac exposure in school (BACK IN MY DAY, WE TYPED PAPERS WITH TYPEWRITERS!) Learned Word/Excel/PPT for work (without a class, so how hard are they to use? you know they’re not) – why on earth would I change to something else now?

      So – fuck Steve Jobs memory and dead, rotting body, fuck Apple and their zombiefied sycophant customers, and long live a competitive marketplace in ‘puter products for whoever can do it better than Apple and MicroMonster. Someday.

    6. Ok, I am not going to wade through pages of apple hate but I will say this…your point about seeing a direct benefit without wasting you prior training is understood and with xcel vary valid. BUT Pages makes all other word processors look stupid, it takes 5 minutes to get proficient, never argues about where I want my FUCKING INDENTS, and ports to every format including word. No reason to use word. Keynote? Blow the living shit out of powerpoint but the learning curve is a little longer than pages.

    7. Umm, you can use Word on a Mac, so I’m not sure what you’re point is.

    8. Well I for one don’t have MS Word experience. I have used Framemaker, OpenOffice and other tools, but never really had to do any serious work with MS Word until a couple of months ago.

      OMG! What a piece of shit! It’s like the poster boy of the User Interface Hall of Shame! It’s like someone applied a Clown Car Kit to a Porsche. And where’s the “save” menu item? When I’m done I want to save my document. Oh, there it is! inside that funky round orange icon in the corner. WTF?

      1. Seriously, try typing ctrl+s and see what happens. Its like trying ctrl+c to copy. Alt+f then s

  5. The interview really confirms two obvious things:

    1) Steve Jobs was a first-class prick;

    2) Apple is going to be fucked now that he’s gone, because no one else has the same level of dedication to the idea of Apple (not even the sperglords that buy every new version of an Apple product when it comes out), nor the same marketing genius.

    1. His “death” is just the last move in the brilliant marketing plan to introduce the iBot line of human replacements.

      You’ll be deafened by the sound of jaws hitting the floor when iBot Steve Jobs walks out on stage at the next MacWorld, fully synced with the original Steve Jobs’ consciousness through iCloud.

    2. It’s the “marketing” genius and ability to pick people that set Jobs apart in my opinion. Guy’s a GENIUS talent selecter/manager (not a technical genius – others in the company develop the tech now).

      And the marketing? “Buy shit that kind of looks cool with no more functionality and for at least 1.5x the price of the competition, and LOVE it!” The guy’s preternatural. Er, was.

      1. Genius is doing one or two things better than anyone else, and in that context, I think Jobs more than qualified.

        I thought he was a piece of shit human being, and I despise his goon army, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give him a ton of credit for making Apple a globally marketable product. Without him, it never gets out of Woz’s garage, and without him, it doesn’t transform into the media-endorsed status symbol that it became after the iMac came out.

    3. 1) So what.
      2) Shh…you’ll jinx it.

  6. I like the idea of MY computer doing whatever I tell it to do, not whatever some server it’s connected to is telling it to do.

    Gates and Jobs both failed in that regard.

    I don’t want auto-formating, auto-updating, or anything else that assumes they know what I’m trying to do. I realize most people aren’t interested in that.

    They don’t need to make computers easier to use. The users need to learn more about the machines they’re trying to operate.

    1. Standard equipment in the aircraft is the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI). It is very nearly impossible in MS Word to type the acronym H S I into a documnt {HSI –> HIS).

      1. Open Word.
        Type ‘HSI’. If you haven’t done this next trick, it will change it to ‘HIS’, else live long and prosper.
        Mouse over ‘HIS’, click the blue triangle to get a context menu and click the “Stop automatically correcting ‘HSI'” option.
        Live long and prosper.

    2. You mean you don’t like coming back from the shitter to find your machine has been remotely rebooted, and by the time you get everything back up you forget that great idea you came up with while you were pinching a loaf?

      Come on!

      That shit’s awesome!

      1. Even better when it’s a Windows Server that decides to go reboot for no reason. Really upsets the users.

        1. Even better when it’s a Windows Server that decides to go reboot for no reason.

          The automatic reboot can be disabled on any server or the pro version OS’s (XP, Vista, or 7) through Group Policy.

  7. Word really does a fine job of processing words.

    It’s page layout that it can’t do for shit.

    1. That’s not what it is for; it’s not a typesetter.

      1. But that doesn’t stop people from trying to use it for such, of course.

        1. And then sending the documents my way because they can’t the layout the way they have it in their head.

          1. *can’t get the layout

            (and yes, they also make the mistake of having me proof it.)

  8. He eventually transformed it into the most valuable company in America?after he transformed the way we operate computers, listen to music, use phones, and interact with each other and the world around us.

    He certainly increased consumer choice, made communications more efficient, spurred 1000’s of competitors, made billions of $$, and created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. But remember, none of this would have happened if President Clinton hadn’t proposed, and Congress approved the Identify Future Market Needs and Invent Products to Satisfy Demand While Creating Jobs and Profits Act of 1998.

    So really, the story is about how awesome the gov’t is at creating jobs.

  9. I just realized computer/tech/geek threads are just as bad as beer-making/sci fi/pizza threads.

    *runs, runs away, runs fast like hair is on fire*

    1. I like all of em, except the pizza threads (the new yorkers are wrong, nothing to argue over).

      1. Screw you! Thin crust!

  10. ‘ and that Gates “just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”‘

    That is pretty rich coming from Steve Jobs.

  11. I’m admittedly the last guy to talk to about computers. Yes, I have a BS in CS, but really, I hate the damned things. Back in my day, we loved the amber glow of the Vax terminal, or the limited 64k machines where it took real brains to write concise code, or the ever-stable X-Windows Sun. And now? hmm… sometimes I just want to live in a log cabin with no electricity.

    -signed, burned-out programmer

    1. +1

      me too…

  12. The only problem with Microsoft,” Jobs says in The Lost Interview, “is they just have no taste.”

    Wait a minute, I remember seeing this interview. Shit, I may have a VHS copy of it somewhere in a box in my basement. Seriously.

    1. If my memory serves me, they asked Jobs about Scully and his response was, “What can I say, I hired the wrong guy.”

    2. Yes, they used that line in the “Triumph of the Nerds” documentary – I remember the line too.

  13. Found this cool T-shirt that I think does a great job of honoring Steve Jobs. Plus, $2.00 of each sale goes to the American Cancer Society. Check it out.

    http://www.utilityboardsupply……on-T-Shirt

    I don’t get anything for this, just like supporting his memory and supporting a valid cause.

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