Few people will remember that Apple founder Steve Jobs gave an interview to Playboy back in 1985.
As with most long interviews with the late CEO, it’s filled with fantastic nuggets about his life, Apple, and the future of computing.
We pulled out our 15 favorite quotes and anecdotes for you to check out.
The Mac team spent $100,000 annually on juice!
The author of the interview was amazed by the perks and culture of Apple:
“The Apple offices are clearly not like most places of employment. Video games abound, pingpong tables are in use, speakers blare out music ranging from The Rolling Stones to Windham Hill jazz. Conference rooms are named after Da Vinci and Picasso, and snack-room refrigerators are stocked with fresh carrot, apple and orange juice. (The Mac team alone spends $100,000 on fresh juice per year.)”
Steve Jobs showed off a Mac to a 9-year-old at a New York party. Andy Warhol was there, saw the computer and was amazed.
But, the best part is Jobs was more interested in playing with the 9 year old. Why? Jobs says, “Older people sit down and ask, ‘What is it?’ but the boy asks, ‘What can I do with it?'”
Steve Jobs was saying things like “incredibly great” back in 1985.
Steve Jobs says Apple benefited from the “petrochemical revolution.” Cheap energy made it easy to make computers.
Here’s his full explanation:
“We’re living in the wake of the petrochemical revolution of 100 years ago. The petrochemical revolution gave us free energy—free mechanical energy, in this case. It changed the texture of society in most ways. This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy. It’s very crude today, yet our Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt light bulb to run and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now? This revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution. We’re on the forefront.”
“A computer is the most incredible tool we’ve ever seen.”
Here’s how Jobs would sell a computer to a skeptic:
“A computer is the most incredible tool we’ve ever seen. It can be a writing tool, a communications center, a supercalculator, a planner, a filer and an artistic instrument all in one, just by being given new instructions, or software, to work from. There are no other tools that have the power and versatility of a computer. We have no idea how far it’s going to go. Right now, computers make our lives easier. They do work for us in fractions of a second that would take us hours. They increase the quality of life, some of that by simply automating drudgery and some of that by broadening our possibilities. As things progress, they’ll be doing more and more for us.”
In 1985 people thought, “the mouse is inefficient.” Really? Jobs’ reply: “We’ve done a lot of studies and tests on that, and it’s much faster to do all kinds of functions, such as cutting and pasting, with a mouse.”
Even in 1985 people thought Apple charged too much for its computers.
Here’s a good give-and-take on Apple’s pricing:
JOBS: Someday we may be able to build a color screen for a reasonable price. As to overpricing, the start-up of a new product makes it more expensive than it will be later. The more we can produce, the lower the price will get——
PLAYBOY: That’s what critics charge you with: hooking the enthusiasts with premium prices, then turning around and lowering your prices to catch the rest of the market.
JOBS: That’s simply untrue. As soon as we can lower prices, we do. It’s true that our computers are less expensive today than they were a few years ago, or even last year. But that’s also true of the IBM PC. Our goal is to get computers out to tens of millions of people, and the cheaper we can make them, the easier it’s going to be to do that. I’d love it if Macintosh cost $1000.
Apple lost “Infinite, incalculable amounts” on the Apple III says Jobs, “But that’s life.”
The Apple III had to be recalled in 1980 because of stability issues, and was ultimately relaunched before being abandoned altogether.
Polaroid’s decision to kick out its founder was “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of.”
Does this sound like it might hit home for Steve Jobs?
“You know, Dr. Edwin Land was a troublemaker. He dropped out of Harvard and founded Polaroid. Not only was he one of the great inventors of our time but, more important, he saw the intersection of art and science and business and built an organization to reflect that. Polaroid did that for some years, but eventually Dr. Land, one of those brilliant troublemakers, was asked to leave his own company—which is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. So Land, at 75, went off to spend the remainder of his life doing pure science, trying to crack the code of color vision. The man is a national treasure. I don’t understand why people like that can’t be held up as models: This is the most incredible thing to be—not an astronaut, not a football player—but this.”
If Apple loses, we “enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years.”
Here’s his take on what happens if IBM beats Apple:
“If, for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years. Once IBM gains control of a market sector, they almost always stop innovation. They prevent innovation from happening.”
Jobs got it wrong on the computer hardware business.
Steve Jobs didn’t think there would be multiple hardware vendors, but there would be multiple software vendors. He got this one backwards. One of the few things he didn’t predict correctly.
“In terms of supplying the computer itself, it’s coming down to Apple and IBM. And I don’t think there are going to be a lot of third- and fourth-place companies, much less sixth- or seventh-place companies. Most of the new, innovative companies are focusing on the software. I think there will be lots of innovation in the areas of software but not in hardware.”
Steve Jobs was a “terror” for teachers, letting out snakes and exploding bombs in the third grade. He was “thrown out of school a few times.”
“My mother taught me to read before I went to school, so I was pretty bored in school, and I turned into a little terror. You should have seen us in third grade. We basically destroyed our teacher. We would let snakes loose in the classroom and explode bombs. Things changed in the fourth grade, though. One of the saints in my life is this woman named Imogene Hill, who was a fourth-grade teacher who taught this advanced class. She got hip to my whole situation in about a month and kindled a passion in me for learning things. I learned more that year than I think I learned in any year in school. They wanted to put me in high school after that year, but my parents very wisely wouldn’t let them.”
Jobs got a job at HP after he called Bill Hewlett asking for parts to a computer. Hewlett was listed in the phone book!
“When I was 12 or 13, I wanted to build something and I needed some parts, so I picked up the phone and called Bill Hewlett—he was listed in the Palo Alto phone book. He answered the phone and he was real nice. He chatted with me for, like, 20 minutes. He didn’t know me at all, but he ended up giving me some parts and he got me a job that summer working at Hewlett- Packard on the line, assembling frequency counters. Assembling may be too strong. I was putting in screws. It didn’t matter; I was in heaven. I remember my first day, expressing my complete enthusiasm and bliss at being at Hewlett-Packard for the summer to my supervisor, a guy named Chris, telling him that my favorite thing in the whole world was electronics. I asked him what his favorite thing to do was and he looked at me and said, “To fuck!” [Laughs] I learned a lot that summer.”
Steve Jobs was employee number 40 at Atari.
Jobs met Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak at Atari, and the pair ended up making the Apple I.
“I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete.”
Jobs on killing older companies:
“That’s inevitably what happens. That’s why I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete. I think that’s one of Apple’s challenges, really. When two young people walk in with the next thing, are we going to embrace it and say this is fantastic? Are we going to be willing to drop our models, or are we going to explain it away? I think we’ll do better, because we’re completely aware of it and we make it a priority.”