This Lost Speech from 1983 Will Make You Think That Steve Jobs Was from the Future

By Casey Chan on at

Here's a possible explanation as to how Apple became so successful: Steve Jobs might've been from the future. That's not true, of course, but to hear him nail so many predictions about modern technology back in 1983, it begins to feel like the only explanation.

Just listen to the speech Steve Jobs gave to the International Design Conference in Aspen in 1983. It's like Jobs knew that Apple was going to make the iPad; that mobile was the future; that the App Store was necessary; that everything was going to be networked wirelessly, and that things like Google Street View and Siri would start to take over our lives. It seems easy to predict this now but Steve Jobs made this speech in 1983. For context, the Macintosh hadn't even been released yet. The best selling computer was the Apple II and the second most popular PC was made by IBM. Michael Jackson just moonwalked for the very first time and Ronald Reagan started talking about Star Wars missiles. This was a long, long, long time ago.

Here are a few noteworthy excerpts from Jobs vision of the future, as put together by Marcel Brown, who digitised the cassette tape that the 'lost' speech was on. Just listen to Jobs talk about something that sounds very much like the iPad we use today:

"Apple's strategy is really simple. What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes. That's what we want to do and we want to do it this decade. And we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don't have to hook up to anything and you're in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers."

Jobs was off by more than a few decades but book-sized computer that's easy to use? Yep. According to Brown, here is some other future predicting stuff that Jobs said in his speech:

  • 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.
  • He mentions an experiment done by MIT that sounds very much like a Google Street View application.
  • He compares the nascent software development industry to the record industry. He says that most people didn't necessarily know what computer they wanted to buy. In contrast, when walking into a record store they definitely knew what music they liked. This was because they got free samples of songs by listening to the radio. He thought that the software industry needed something like a radio station so that people could sample software before they buy it. He believed that software distribution through traditional brick-and-mortar was archaic since software is digital and can be transferred electronically through phone lines. He foresees paying for software in an automated fashion over the phone lines with credit cards. I don't know about you, but I think this sounds incredibly similar to the concept of the Apple App Store. Plus his comparison to the music industry just might be foreshadowing the iTunes store. You need to listen to the speech to hear the entirety of this passage for yourself.

Head over to Life, Liberty and Tech to hear the entire Steve Jobs speech and see more excerpts that Brown was able to jot down. In all, there's 20 minutes of never-before-heard footage. You should check it out. [Life, Liberty and Tech via TNW]