A Young Steve Jobs Teaches a Class at MIT (1992)

Ask­ing whether there will ever be anoth­er Steve Jobs seems to me like ask­ing whether there’ll ever be anoth­er Muham­mad Ali. While there may be lit­tle com­par­i­son between their respec­tive domains, both unique indi­vid­u­als mas­tered their cho­sen pur­suits, fought like hell to keep their titles, and “thought dif­fer­ent” than every­one around them. Also Jobs, like Ali, didn’t hes­i­tate to speak his mind, as in the clip above, in which he declares Microsoft’s Win­dows “the worst devel­op­ment envi­ron­ment that’s ever been invent­ed.” It ain’t politic, but it’s maybe… kin­da true? I don’t know…

My opin­ions on the mat­ter aren’t worth much—I wouldn’t know the back­end of an oper­at­ing sys­tem from the back­end of a trac­tor-trail­er. But Jobs didn’t attain tech guru sta­tus just for the sleek­ness and sim­plic­i­ty of Apple’s designs, but for his keen insights into the refine­ment of con­sumer com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy and his abil­i­ty to con­vey them with the unpre­ten­tious direct­ness of a black turtle­neck and dad jeans. The clips here are of a young-ish Jobs teach­ing at MIT cir­ca 1992, when he was 37 and run­ning his com­pa­ny NeXT, found­ed in 1985 after he was orig­i­nal­ly forced out of Apple.

He stayed plen­ty busy dur­ing his Apple inter­reg­num, help­ing to launch a lit­tle com­put­er graph­ics divi­sion that would become Pixar and devel­op­ing the tech­nol­o­gy and designs that rev­o­lu­tion­ized Apple when it bought NeXT in 1997—and when Jobs retook his empire through pro­pri­etary ruth­less­ness.

Here, five years away from that fate­ful event, we see him explain­ing his phi­los­o­phy of inno­va­tion to stu­dents who may or may not have fore­seen the break­throughs to come. Just above, he describes how “you can use the con­cept of tech­nol­o­gy of win­dows open­ing, and then even­tu­al­ly clos­ing,” refer­ring not, this time, to Bill Gates’ hat­ed OS.

Rather, Jobs talks of a sit­u­a­tion in which “enough tech­nol­o­gy, usu­al­ly from fair­ly diverse places, comes togeth­er, and makes some­thing that’s a quan­tum leap for­ward pos­si­ble.” One of Jobs’ many leaps for­ward in con­sumer tech­nol­o­gy might rea­son­ably be summed up in one word: porta­bil­i­ty, as in, the abil­i­ty to car­ry an entire library of music or a cell phone/music player/personal com­put­er in your pock­et.  Just above, he dis­cuss­es “the ene­my of porta­bil­i­ty,” name­ly such mar­ket demands as pro­cess­ing speed, stor­age space, and high-speed net­work­ing. And in the clip below, he talks about a sub­ject near and dear to every tech exec­u­tive’s heart—poaching tal­ent from com­peti­tors such as, well, Microsoft.

The uni­form of turtle­neck tucked into jeans, the delib­er­ate pac­ing back and forth, the expres­sive hand ges­tures and gen­uine com­fort and con­fi­dence in front of a crowd: all of the man­ner­isms we remem­ber from those hot­ly antic­i­pat­ed launch events are there in a shag­gi­er form.

Through the var­i­ous appli­ca­tions of his tech­no­log­i­cal acu­men, Jobs remained always him­self. The “next Steve Jobs,” or rather those aspir­ing to his lev­el of rel­e­vance should take note—he did it by insist­ing on doing it his way.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 20 CDs Curat­ed by Steve Jobs and Placed on Pro­to­type iPods (2001)

Steve Jobs Mus­es on What’s Wrong with Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion, 1995

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

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.