Steve Jobs' 1983 21st century technology FAQ (Transcription)


This is the FAQ portion - From the International Design Conference in Aspen in 1983

Click here for the speech part of the transcription - Steve Jobs' 1983 21st century technology speech (Full Transcription)

(Filled-pauses such as 'uhm' included for completeness of the transcription)
(Credit goes to Steve Jobs for the amazing speech, and please cite this post if you use this transcription, thanks!)

Steve Jobs:

So what do you want to talk about?
(Audience applause)


Man in audience:
[Unintelligible].... Personal computers... []

Yeah it's a mess. Ok? Okay. "How are these computers all going to work together?" Uhm. They're going to probably work together a lot like people. Sometimes they're going to work together really well and other times they're not going to work together so well.

What we've got now, is. We are... putting a lot of computers out. That are made to be pretty much, what you'd call to be a standalone mode. One person, one computer. But it isn't very long before you get a community of users, using these things, that really wanna hook 'em all together. Because ultimately a computer's going to be a tool for communication. So they wanna hook 'em together and communicate.

And over the next 5 years, the standards for doing this are going to evolve.

They all speak different languages right now.

And uh, so there's a-- I heard a funny story. We've talked a lot with AT&T, uhm, American Bell etc. and there's a funny story. Uhm.. About the- this is a true story. When the old-- I talked to this old guy who was about 80 years old, and he was one of the original telephone installers and he would go out and he would install telephones in peoples farm houses. And they'd never seen anything like this. And uh, it takes two wires, you'd run the two wires down and you'd hook up the phone. And he was out installing this phone, uh, for this Italian family, on his farm. And he'd finished installing the phone, and the guy asked him. Well, can I speak Italian on this phone? And he said "Why didn't you tell me? I gotta run a third wire, it'll be 50 dollars extra!"

(Audience laughter)

So.. that's where we are today.

And... What happened, there's been a few installations where people hooked these things together. And one that stands out, Xerox did it, at a place called Palo Alto Research Center or PARC for short. And they hooked about a hundred computers together on what's called a Local Area Network which is just a cable that carries all your information back and forth.

And an interesting thing happened when they did that. What happened was--was that, you'd have a distribution list. So you'd wanna send a memo to all the people in this group. And so you'd say OK and you'd write a memo and you'd send it to all the people in this distribution list for all the people interested in uhh, November forecast. Or new Product Delta or whatever you were working on.

But then an interesting thing happened. Uh, there were 20 people and they were interested in volleyball. So, a volleyball distribution list evolved. And when there was a n-- the volleyball game next week changed and you'd write a quick memo and send it to the volleyball distribution list. And there was a Chinese food cooking list. And before long.. there were more lists than people..

And it was a very very interesting phenomenon because I think that's exactly what's going to happen. Is that as we start to tie these things together, they're going to facilitate communication and facilitate bringing people together. And the special interests that they have. We're-- We're about 5 years away from really solving the problems of hooking these things together in the office. And we're about ... 10 to 15 years away of solving the problems of hooking them together in the home. Uhh and.. th-- a lot of people working on it but it's a pretty fierce problem.

Now.. Apple's strategy is really simple. What we wanna do, is we wanna 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 wanna do and we wanna do it this decade. And we really wanna do it with a radio link in it, so you don't have to hook up to anything, you're in communication... with all these larger databases and other computers.

We don't know how to do that now. It's impossible technically.

So, we had three options:

One, was to do nothing. And as I mentioned, we're all pretty young and impatient so that was not a good option. The second one was to put a piece of garbage computer in a book, and we could do that.. but our competitors are doing that so we don't need to do that. (Audience laughter) The third option, was to design the computer that we want to put into the book eventually, even though we can't put it into the book now.

And right now, it fits in a breadbox and it's ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) and it's called Lisa. And it just so turns out that fortunately, there's a giant office market out there that's buying these things a lot faster than we can make them. We're sold out to the next year. And we'll sell over a hundred million dollars ($100,000,000.00) of those things the first year. So, fortunately there's an office marketplace, where, enhancing personal productivity is absolutely worth ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) a person.

And they're gobbling these things up, and they will pay for development of this new technology. The next thing we will do, is find a way to put it in a br-- in a shoebox. And sell it for like twenty five hundred dollars ($2500.00). And that'll be the next step.

And finally, we'll find a way to get it in a book and sell it for under a thousand dollars ($1000.00). And we will be there within 5 to 7 years. And that's what we're working, pretty singularly on. Yeah?

Woman in audience:
[unintelligible]... Apple... who... Apple.. Computers... of any kind or...

That is a little crude.. But.. Ok. Uhh. Let me tell you what we're planning to do, to be able to provide tools for graphic design. That'll never be our fort (sic. see: forté). uhm. Our fort (forté) is gonna be pe-- just people. And.. relative to nothing, what we can give them in the next 5 years is a lot.

And eventually we'll get to the point where people can create images that are as good as they can create any other way. But it's going to take the better part of this decade to be able to get it down to a price point that people can afford. But we're doing some things now, every computer to date has used a [???] type on the screen, as you know. The "I"'s are just as wide as the "W"'s, non-proportionately spaced fonts we call 'em.. you call em.

And uhm, it's really been impossible to use multiple fonts on the screen at any given time. As a matter of fact, the fonts have been just garbage. And it's really been impossible to embed any kind of graphics, with text. If you take a look at Lisa, it is totally proportionately spaced text. We have 30 - 40 fonts on the screen, that come out at 80 approximately 80 dots per inch resolution on the screen. Approximately up to 300 dots per inch resolution on a laser printer and that's where we are today.

What you're saying is we really wanna go to six, seven hundred dots per inch on a laser film printer. We're not there yet. But we're solving the problems of inject some liberal arts into these computers. That's what we're trying to do right now. Let's get proportionately spaced fonts in there. Let's get multiple fonts in there, let's get graphics in there so that we can deal in pictures. And let's get to the point that three years from now, there's going to be no-- there's going to be no college students 3 or 4 years from now that's ever going to think of writing a paper without one of these things.

Just like they will not think of going to a science class without a calculator today. And where we gotta get to is where people 3 or 4 years from now are using these and saying "Wasn't this the way it always was?". That's where we're trying to get to now. Once we get to there, we can start to get to some of the other stuff. Yeah?

Man in audience:
[unintelligible] Do you feel that... []

Yea I only heard part-- which part.. you're talking about uhh. People having these big databases about your life, or?..

Man in audience:
The privacy issues

The privacy issues.. OK Uhm. I guess what I see now is um, an incredible amount of information but not a great ability to distill any knowledge or wisdom out of that information. We are all bombarded by so much information every day, and there is so much information in databanks and uhm the progression of budgets and testimony uh and books, journal articles being published every day. And our ability to turn all that information to filter it to what we're interested in and turn it into something useful to us, some knowledge, is very low.

So I think if we're really interested in a.. distributed uhm, society where the ability to understand things and the ability to ... distill information.. knowledge from information, is possess-able by everyone.. the first thing we gotta do, is get tools to people to help them do that.

Because right now, those tools are centralized. You see what I'm saying?

So I think the first step towards ensuring that we don't get a concentration of something that you don't want.. is to distribute that intelligence that can turn all this information into some sort of knowledge for us. So that we can get on and we can look at congress-- any congressional testimony that has to do with gun control. Any journal articles published, any newspaper articles published.

So that I can come home, and on a weekend. Pursue the weekly outpouring of information but put a filter on it, because I'm only interested in gun control. And I can find out the my congressman gave some testimony last week about gun control that I didn't agree with so that I can get on and write him a pretty nasty letter and [???] it on the email system and make sure that at least one of his aides will read it tomorrow.

And I think that that probably more important than worrying about these global databases.. alright? Um I don't.. I don't think that you're going to find um.. we're moving rapidly into an era of electronic funds transfer. And I think that's probably the thing that most people are concerned about right now. Because you could keep a history of our whereabouts and things like that just based on financial transactions. And I think that's the thing people are most concerned about right now.

But I haven't heard a ton of issues concerning uhm these giant databases that know everything about us that had much substance to them. The thing I'm most concerned with is the ability to turn all this stuff into something we can do something about.

Does that make any sense? I didn't get much sleep last night so I'm a little.... Yeah?

Man in audience:
[Unintelligible]... public service...[]

Ah, public service. uhm.

(Audience laughter)

We don't do things because we think they're public services, we do them because we think they ought to be done. I guess. We do 'em cause we wanna do 'em.

Uhm we're doing a few things, the first thing we're doing uhm is, there's a situation with the training in schools right now. This all started the governor, the former governor of California senator Brown started this thing Called the California commission on industrial innovation in uh 1980. It turns out we'll be about a billion dollars this year. And we've got a business plan that looks out five years it's not always accurate but it shows us the trends. Shows us the general direction, shows us some of the pitfalls.

California is uh 22-- I think 300 Billion dollar economy. GDP I think, is associated with California. And uh, California doesn't have anything. There isn't-- there didn't use to be one scrap of paper written down. So Governor Brown put all these people together and said, we've gotta figure out where we're going because we don't wanna have a planned economy but we need to have the infrastructure to support it. The infrastructure takes time to build so we have to at least understand the trends, if you wanna be turning out more engineers next year. You can start this year, you have to start 5 years ago. You have to train the teachers etc etc so what infrastructure are we going to need to support the growth.

Well the first thing we looked at was employment, jobs.

And what we found was that about 44% of new jobs in California in the 1980's come directly from high technology. And we looked at that and we said "shit". And what are we going to do to further that and what are we going to do to hinder that.

And there were three things that came up but the biggest one was education by a long shot. And we looked at the education system and we are turning out almost as many welders in California as we are computer scientists. These welders are coming out of school and there ain't any jobs for them. And this is just a minute example of the problem.

And so one of the things that Apple decided to do, this is-- this is not going to make a giant difference but this could be a catalyst to make something started we decided we wanted to give a computer to every school in America. There's 100,000 school in America. And we figured, if there was at least one student that was interested, they'd find some way to get to it. And possibly they'd start to understand what computers were and maybe integrate them into maybe one or two classes. Uhm, and so we figured that that would cost approximately fifty million dollars and we'd go broke.

So we went to congress and we said look, we'll pay 10 of this if you pay 40 of it. That's 10 right out of out bank account. And just to give you a perspective on it, uh in 1981, Apple made 40 million dollars. Total. After working our butts off for a year.. So we were willing to spend 25% of our 81 profits to do that. And uh, we got very close to getting this passed but Bob Dole and the senate killed it because he didn't really understand it.

But California being the bellwether state it was, passed the same law. Cause we pay California tax. So we called the program "Kids Can't Wait'. Cause Kids can't wait for educational bureaucracy to get around to it, the kids can't wait for the parents to understand about it and buy em one. So we're just going to get one in there and we are uh, the law got passed in California. There are 10,000 schools in California. The program was announced 60 days ago and starting next month we're rolling out 10,000 computers one free to ever school in California.

(Wild applause)

And I guess the important thing to restate, this isn't going to fundamentally change the problem. But at least it's going to get one computer in there so that if there is a student especially in one of the schools that can't afford one of these things, which is another thing concerns us, computer-have, computer-have-not. Screw it. They'll still get exposure to one. Yeah?

[More to come as I transcribe it. - Andy]