Full audio of Steve Jobs' 1983 speech at IDC

Full audio of Steve Jobs' 1983 speech at IDC

Summary: Listen to Steve Jobs 1983 speech at the International Design Conference in Aspen, now posted in its full glory. Did he predict the iPad almost 30 years ago?


In August 9to5Mac posted a link to a 20-minute clip of a rare audio recording of Steve Jobs speaking at the 1983 International Design Conference in Aspen. 9to5's Jordan Kahn today posted the full Jobs talk, consisting of his 20-minute prepared speech and the full Q&A session afterward -- over 54 minutes of vintage Jobs.

The conference audio was provided to LifeLibertyTech by John Celuch of Inland Design on casette tape. You can stream it from SoundCloud (via the embedded player above) or there's a downloadable version here.

In his speech Jobs boasted that Apple was booking almost $1 billion in revenue per year, he predicted the explosion of the personal computer market, the need for better product designers (they all design automobiles now), the MIT project that would eventually contribute to Google’s StreetView and he made a comment that voice recognition was at least "a decade away." Jobs also bemoaned the fact that California graduated more plumbers than it did computer engineers. 

It's a fascinating listen and amazingly prescient considering that it was recorded almost 30 years ago.

More highlights of the recording, courtesy of LifeLiberyTech:

  • He states that in a few years people will be spending more time interacting with personal computers than with cars. It seems so obvious now, but hardly a given back then.
  • He equates society’s level of technology familiarity to being on a “first date” with personal computers. He recognized that technology would continue to evolve in the near future as would people’s comfort level with it. In hindsight, once it became dominant the PC industry stood relatively still while Jobs was busy planning “the next big thing”.
  • 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 discusses early networking and the mess of different protocols that existed at the time. He predicts that we were about 5 years away from “solving” networking in the office and 10-15 years from solving networking in the home. I’d say he was pretty much dead-on.
  • He says Apple’s strategy is to “put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you that you can learn how to use in 20 minutes”. Does that sound like anything we are familiar with today? And they wanted to do it with a “radio link” so that people wouldn’t need to hook it up to anything to communicate with “larger databases” and other computers. 
  • 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.
  • Right at the end of the Q&A session, a question is asked about voice recognition, which he believed was the better part of a decade away from reality. Given the context of Siri today, it is interesting to hear him talk about the difficultly of recognizing language vs voice because language is contextually driven. He says, “This stuff is hard.”

Further Reading: 

Topic: Apple

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  • Relevant Video

    Back in the late 80's Apple had a video produced by Lucasfilm showing a possible vision of the future, this included a folding tablet computer for mobile use, as well as a voice assistant when at home.

    The voice assistant could collect information from the internet.

    In effect this was an iPad and Siri in early concept form.

    I once had Apple Australia's VHS copy of this video, and unfortunately I lost it.

    The Stanford archives news video has a small excerpt of it, so it must be in the Stanford Archive.

    I have not found it anywhere else on the net. If someone could get it online it would be very interesting considering the current discussions about who thought of what and when.

    It really is about time people realised how far back the work on technology goes, and that when a company like Samsung walks in and copies they really are latecomers to the whole thing.

    Samsung does good work in some areas of technology, but there are decades of work they need to make a tablet. Much of their work is actually undoing a lot of development work just to be different and claim it as progress when it is going backwards (such as phone size).

    Please can someone dig it out - or maybe Mr O'Grady you could find it and write a good article about it?
    • Knowledge Navigator

      @richardw66: I think are thinking of the Knowledge Navigator video.

      If my link does not appear, search for "Knowledge Navigator" on your favourite search engine.
  • Thanks, Jason. Three years were to pass before I even heard of the Mac

    That was 1 May 1986. We paid NZ$26,000 (with a mortgage on the house) for a Macintosh Plus and a Laserwriter Plus. At the time I was using a CPT word processor for which my employer paid $50,000 (two miserable workstations and one horrid daisy wheel printer) and you just about needed a degree in computing to be able to use these things. With the Macintosh Plus I got to play with it a mere day or two (and go to work as well) before getting a very large job dumped on me.
    Laraine Anne Barker
  • A brilliant mind for integration

    ... of day to day tasks and how to interface those mundane tasks into user-friendly computing interfaces. That, undoubtedly, was / is Job's genius and legacy on the computing world.

    I fear that without his creative and design conceptualization and direction, Apple will ultimately come unstuck. Apple's problem won't isn't finding innovative systems designers - it's the replacement of their mentor who could tie innovative, design flair and constructural understanding of the average Jane & Joe's desire for simplicity into computing devices. Jobs is arguably the only CEO of *any generation* that embodied all those qualities ... that's the real big ? for Cupertino.

    How do you replicate (...let alone replace) such a leader as Jobs? I mean, can they? I don't believe so. Now, that's the cold, hard impossibility Apple is truly faced with at this point in their company history. Although no cracks have appeared yet (MAPS excepted), how long does Apple maintain the veneer of appearing to be just fine 'n dandy?

    It surely is food for thought.
  • Thanks

    Listening to this recording of Steve Jobs in 1983 is very nostalgic for me. I was 11 years old when he gave that speech! As I recall, at that time, my elementary school had a "Lab" with 5 computers- 1- Apple IIe and 4- Radio Shack TRS-80's. We had one hour a week in the computer lab and I remember being taught the "Basic" programming code with $ commands and yes or no answers. This was an exciting time for us and I like to consider myself as part of the first PC user generation. In addition to my exposure to these new machines on campus, I had a friend whose wealthy parents bought an Apple for the home. We would stay up well into the wee hours of the night playing Oregon Trail or Bard's Tale.

    Listening to Steve Jobs on this recording, it's not hard to get a sense of the passion he had about the future of Apple and the PC - as it was known at that time. His motivation to work seemingly did not include a desire to get wealthy or attain immense power. His drive seemed far deeper than materialistic issues. He wanted to change the world, and he wanted to do it with grace and beauty. A trait that seems to be missing in a lot of tech products out there today.

    I'm saddened by the loss of such a great mind before his time but grateful for the words spoken by him here in this recording of 1983. It should serve as an example for current and future generations to come about how imagination is more important that knowledge and that the future is ours to design!
  • Did he predict the iPad almost 30 years ago

    I agree that Steve was a visionary, but in that case so is every science fiction writer or those who think about what could be in the future. Give credit where credit is deserved. Steve Jobs was not "god-like" as you suggest. He was a man with great marketing timing.