Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (NR)

jobs-lost-interview“[John Scully] destroyed everything I had been working toward for 10 years.” This rare display of melancholy was a departure for the otherwise upbeat, charming salesman.

 

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Filmed in 1995, Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview shows us a Steve Jobs embittered by a harsh departure from Apple, yet resilient and hopeful for the future of the industry. The interview is an amazing signpost which presents Jobs after a glorious rise to fame and riches, but before he catapulted into the stratosphere of a near-deity in the early 2000s. A less-than-trim Jobs nostalgically smirks under a quaff of longish brown hair as he recalls his upbringing, the first time he saw a computer, and befriending Steve Wozniak, among other parts of his early career.

After the passing of such a singular figure in modern culture, there’s been an onslaught of media coverage on Steve Jobs. Since he was responsible for shaping our connected culture, his reach is unrivaled in modern times. Few people in history have affected the world the way Jobs did, and even fewer have remained so outright private while doing so.

Jobs was notoriously quiet about his personal life and rarely filmed one-on-one interviews. When he did, he usually stuck to company talking points, always promoting the latest product. His personal life was just that, personal, and in many ways it’s remained so after his death. The “lost” interview gives us a slice of that. Although he appears somewhat well rehearsed, the younger Jobs (age 40) is a little less guarded than the older Jobs to whom we’re more accustomed.

During the interview, Jobs was at NEXT (the small computer company he founded after being booted from Apple). The power struggle with Apple CEO John Scully was still fresh in his mind. “If we keep going about this, I’m going to get emotional,” Jobs says when discussing his departure from Apple. He goes on: “[John Scully] destroyed everything I had been working toward for 10 years.” This rare display of melancholy was a departure for the otherwise upbeat, charming salesman.

Robert X. Cringley filmed the interview for the PBS miniseries Triumph of the Nerds and had only used portions of it for the show. The original tapes were lost in transit and all footage of the interview was thought to have been lost with them, until recently when a VHS copy of the master tapes was  discovered in a dusty garage. The final product looks as good as you’d expect an eight-year-old VHS copy to be: It’s light on effects and picture quality, but long on content. The full interview lasts over an hour and is seldom interrupted by the host.

The mid-’90 s were tough times for Apple. When Jobs was prompted about his former company he helped found, he responded, “If you were a product person at IBM or Xerox… So you make a better copier, so what? When you have a monopoly market share, the company’s not any more successful… The companies forget what it means to make great products.”

What made Jobs so important was his unique vision, and revolutionary ideas, and an undying passion for success. He encapsulated some of that unique vision near the end of the interview, saying, “Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It’s a matter of trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done. And then try to bring those things into what you are doing.

“Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians. They also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world. But if it hadn’t been computer science, these people would have been doing amazing things in other fields. We all brought to this a sort of ‘liberal arts’ air, an attitude that we wanted to pull the best that we saw into this field. You don’t get that if you are very narrow.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview offers a unique glimpse of the man in the middle of an historic career. His responses are thoughtful, eloquent, and genuine, making it one of the few times when Jobs appears to let his guard down. | Glen Elkins

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