Steve Jobs on the Rise of the Personal Computer: A Rare 1990 Interview

In ear­ly 1990 Steve Jobs grant­ed a very rare inter­view to the mak­ers of a PBS NOVA minis­eries called The Machine that Changed the World.

The pro­duc­ers of the series had a tough time get­ting Jobs to talk with them. They had already inter­viewed Bill Gates, Steve Woz­ni­ak and most of the oth­er found­ing fathers of the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion, but the reclu­sive Jobs brushed off all requests. “As we start­ed the series,” writes Nan­cy Linde at the NOVA Web site, “we were warned time and time again. ‘You ‘ll nev­er get Steve Jobs on cam­era.’ ”  After mul­ti­ple requests, Jobs final­ly replied with a terse “No, thank you.” Linde con­tin­ues:

But we had an ace up our sleeve by the name of Robert Noyce. A leg­end in the com­put­er world as the co-inven­tor of the microchip and co-founder of Intel, Bob Noyce was a strong sup­port­er of The Machine That Changed the World and served on our advi­so­ry board. Like most in Sil­i­con Val­ley, Steve Jobs revered Bob Noyce, and a one-para­graph let­ter from Noyce changed Jobs’ “no” into a “yes,” giv­ing our series one of a lim­it­ed num­ber of inter­views Steve Jobs gave in his short life­time.

At the time of the inter­view, Jobs was 35 years old and about mid­way through his 11-year exile from Apple. He was work­ing with NeXT, the com­put­er com­pa­ny he found­ed after being pushed out of Apple in 1985. In keep­ing with the theme of the minis­eries, the inter­view deals most­ly with the big pic­ture. Jobs talks about the role of the com­put­er in human life, and about the emer­gence and evo­lu­tion of per­son­al com­put­ing. He tells the sto­ry of how he and his ear­ly friend Woz­ni­ak (referred to in the inter­view as “Woz”) turned a hob­by into a busi­ness and devel­oped the Apple I and Apple II com­put­ers. He very briefly touch­es on the first two dri­vers of the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion — spread­sheets and desk­top pub­lish­ing — before talk­ing at length about the rev­o­lu­tion that was yet to come: net­worked com­put­ing. The World Wide Web had bare­ly been cre­at­ed in 1990, and Jobs is fair­ly pre­scient in his pre­dic­tions of how the link­ing of com­put­ers would change the world.

The inter­view is pre­sent­ed above in raw form. You can read a tran­script of the con­ver­sa­tion at the WGBH Web site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Jobs Demos the First Mac­in­tosh in 1984

Steve Jobs Nar­rates the First “Think Dif­fer­ent” Ad (Nev­er Aired)

Learn to Code with Harvard’s Intro to Com­put­er Sci­ence Course And Oth­er Free Tech Class­es

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