Thanks to blogger Marcel Brown, we now have another piece of evidence that the late Steve Jobs was indeed a visionary. Brown tracked down a cassette tape recording of a talk Jobs gave in 1983 to a relatively obscure group called the International Design Conference in Aspen. The title of the talk was “The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be.”
Although Brown says Jobs’ prepared remarks from the talk had already been posted in June, the full recording also includes a lengthy question and answer session where Jobs’ most intriguing insights are revealed. In the tape, Jobs talks about how he sees the personal computer and Internet evolving as primarily a communications tool that supports a wide range of niche interests (at the time the Internet was a network that linked mainly university computers and it would be another six years before Tim Berners-Lee wrote his proposal for what would become the World Wide Web).
Jobs also talks about his goal of shrinking a computer down so that it fits in a book, possibly equipped with a radio antenna. In addition to the iPad, he even appears to have already been thinking about iTunes and the App Store, talking about the need for the software equivalent of a radio station that would allow people to sample different programs, over the phone lines, before buying them for their machines. At the end of the Q&A, Jobs is asked about speech recognition and launches into a discussion about how tricky it is to accomplish—a challenge Apple’s engineers still wrestle with today as they attempt to perfect Siri, the iPhone’s voice-activated personal assistant.