Steve Jobs The Lost Interview

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

20 December

NeXT merges with Apple, 1996

On this day in 1996, Apple Computer Inc agreed a deal with Next Computer Inc to buy Next for $429 million, plus 1.5 million Apple shares. Next had been set up by Steve Jobs after he had been ousted in 1985 from Apple, the company he had co-founded in 1976. The deal involved the return of Jobs to Apple, which was seen as something of a second coming for Apple, whose fortunes had been languishing since Jobs had left (and before he had left too). The deal was brokered by Gil Amelio, who had been hired only in February 1996 specifically to turn the company around, something he had already managed with National Semiconductor. Since February Amelio had managed to make Apple profitable again – $25 million dollars profit in the quarter ending 27 September – but what Apple really needed was game-changing new software, in particular an operating system. Next had the software, having decided only in 1993 to abandon hardware production and concentrate solely on software (which analysts had been telling Apple to do for ever). When he returned to Apple, Jobs came with the job title of “adviser” to Gil Amelio and was crucial in adapting OPENSTEP, the Unix-based operating system based on the NeXTSTEP system developed by Jobs and his team at NeXT, for the Macintosh. It eventually became Mac OS X, the computer’s tenth operating system. Another piece of Next software, WebObjects, went on to become the heart of the Apple Store and eventually the iTunes Store. In 1997 Jobs organised a boardroom coup against Amelio and became interim CEO.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (2012, dir: Paul Sen)

If you have any interest in computers at all, this 1995 interview between journalist Robert X Cringely and Steve Jobs is fascinating viewing. It was conducted while Jobs was at Next, between his stints at Apple, and while he was still licking his wounds having been unceremoniously thrown out of the company he had built with Steve Wozniak from nothing. Pretty much unedited raw footage, single camera, fixed chair, it’s a wide ranging affair in which Cringely, a former Apple man and clearly a friend of Jobs’s, asks Jobs about how he got started, on his philosophy of running a company, on being super-rich and on the competition. His answers are worth hearing in full – but here’s a cut out and keep quickie guide. Getting started: he literally found the number for Bob Hewlett (of Hewlett Packard) in the phone book, rang him up and asked for a job. Jobs was 12 at the time. He liked working there – they had coffee and donuts. On his own first computers: with Wozniak he built a device that could hack into AT&T’s phone system and make calls for free. “Everybody should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you to think,” says Jobs. On running a company: “the product people get driven out of decision-making forums… the product genius gets rotted out”, he says, on the dread creep of marketing people into every area. “Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry.” On being rich: “I was earning $100 million by the time I was 25. And it wasn’t that important because I wasn’t in it for the money.” On the competition: “My only problem with Microsoft is that they just don’t have taste… Microsoft is McDonalds.” Looking forward ten years – it was 1995 when the interview was conducted, so he’s talking about 2005, Jobs predicts that the future is… “the web. It’s going to be huge.” And on the computer, which Jobs helped take out of the hands of techies: “Of all the inventions of humans, the computer is going to rank at the top as history unfolds. It’s the most awesome tool we have ever invented.”

Why Watch?

  • If there are prophets of the computer world, Jobs was one
  • A charismatic man – feared by some – at his most relaxed
  • There is very little footage from this time, when Jobs was still young and sleek
  • Because Jobs is being open and honest – he’s running a tiny company, not a computer megacorp

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2013

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