Steve Jobs Makes Some Amazing Predictions in This ‘Lost’ Portion of a 1983 Speech

Some would describe the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs as visionary. But just how forward thinking he and the company was early on might not have been realized to its fullest extent — until now.

A recently uncovered 1983 speech puts Jobs at the International Design Conference in Aspen. Marcel Brown with Life Liberty Tech points out the speech was highlighted earlier this year but cut off after Jobs’ 20 minutes of prepared remarks, leaving a Q&A session “lost.” Brown has recovered and digitized the full audio.

These unprepared remarks, Brown writes, show Jobs’ “incredible insight into his vision of future technology.”

This cassette was given to Brown from a client who was an attendee of Jobs' 1983 speech. (Photo: Marcel Brown/Life Liberty Tech)

“This talks shows us just how incredibly ahead of his time he was,” Brown writes.

Listen to the full speech — both the prepared 20 minutes plus the Q&A (Note: new audio starts at 21:30. The entire speech is 54:23.):

In the speech, Jobs says, “Apple’s strategy is really simple.” He goes on to essentially describe the MacBook but notes that there were technical impossibilities preventing their idea from coming to fruition at the time but envisioning achieving goals within the decade. “So, we had three options,” he says.

“Option one was to do nothing. As I mentioned, we are all pretty young and patient, so that was not a good option.

“The second was to put a piece of garbage computer in a book. […] our competitors are doing that so we don’t need to do that.

“The third option was to design the computer that we want to put in the book eventually, even though we can’t put in the book now. Right now, it fits in a bread box and is $10,000… it just so turns out, fortunately, there is a giant office market out there that is buying these things a lot faster than we can make them.”

Jobs goes on to say that the next thing they planned to do with this technology is find a way to put it in a shoebox (referencing the size) and sell it for $2,500.

Steve Jobs, left, chairman of Apple Computers, John Sculley, center, president and CEO, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, unveil the new Apple IIc computer in San Francisco, April 24, 1984. (Photo: AP/Sal Veder)

“Finally, we’ll find a way to get it in a book and sell it for under $1,000.”

The birth of the MacBook went as Jobs described.

Here are a few of the futuristic highlights from the speech pulled out by Brown (Editor’s note: headers mentioning the current Apple technology were added to Brown’s highlights ):

  • iPhone: He confidently talks about the personal computer being a new medium of communication. Again, this is before networking was commonplace or there was any inkling of the Internet going mainstream. Yet he specifically talks about early e-mail systems and how it is re-shaping communication. He matter-of-factly states that when we have portable computers with radio links, people could be walking around anywhere and pick up their e-mail. Again, this is 1983, at least 20 years before the era of mobile computing.
  • Google Street View: He mentions an experiment done by MIT that sounds very much like a Google Street View application.
  • MacBook: He says Apple’s strategy is to “put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you that you can learn how to use in 20 minutes”. Does that sound like anything we are familiar with today?
  • iTunes and Apps: He thought that the software industry needed something like a radio station so that people could sample software before they buy it. […] He foresees paying for software in an automated fashion over the phone lines with credit cards.
  • Siri: Right at the end of the Q&A session, a question is asked about voice recognition, which he believed was the better part of a decade away from reality. Given the context of Siri today, it is interesting to hear him talk about the difficultly of recognizing language vs voice because language is contextually driven. He says, “This stuff is hard”.

Brown obtained the whole of the speech from John Celuch of Inland Design, who as an attendee of the conference was given a cassette recording of it at the time.

Check out Brown’s full post for more insights on the speech here.

Brown also writes that Celuch, who met Jobs at the conference, was given something to put into a “time capsule,” which has yet to be dug up. Brown writes that he’ll provide more information on this in future articles.

34 Comments