1980: Steve Jobs on Hardware Software Convergence

Posted on: August 18, 2013
Posted in Strategy

Jobs 1980

This video interview is a gem, a very rare find that was donated to the Computer History Museum and posted online in recent years. The full presentation is 24 minutes and well worth watching—YouTube link here.

It’s classic Steve Jobs, him talking in hyperbole and attracting laughs and ahh’s from the audience. But it’s a much rarer view into his style, as this is just 1980, four years after Apple was founded in a garage. I’m sure Ashton studied this vintage video over and over in prep for his role in Jobs, because there aren’t many interviews dating to early Apple.

When you have a genius like Steve Jobs creating a new market they often have the rare ability to see the future before it happens, and you can already see pieces of Steve’s vision for the future here.

This quote below stood out for me as the gem—it’s thoughts like this that foretell the broader computing phenomenon that Apple would redefine, first with desktop computers and then mobile computing decades later:

It starts around 17:35:

“More and more, software is getting integrated into the hardware… Yesterday’s software is today’s hardware. Those two things are merging. And the line between hardware and software is going to get finer and finer and finer. And one of the ways that we’re approaching the problem of trying to remove the barrier is to try to look ahead a few years and try to make some predictions at how the technologies are merging, and at the same time very carefully looking at the kinds of high level tools our customers are going to need and trying to make those two points the same target.“

If you read this paragraph, you don’t think you are in 1980. Or 1990. Or 2000 even. This could be a quote from a major handset OEM, from a Samsung or Google executive today… in 2013.

But this was 1980, years before the Macintosh, before Bill Gates founded Microsoft, before the graphical interface or word processor, or really any substantial software outside of a command line prompt.

When people talk about visionaries, and whether they impact an organization to the degree that they catapult the company into a totally different sphere, Steve Jobs is the archetype of that visionary. It wasn’t a lucky accident that Apple redefined the mobile market—Apple’s collective DNA was aligned to believe it could push hardware / software convergence to any device you held in the palm of your hand at the time he came back to launch the iPod.

Today, the biggest challenge in mobile computing is still hardware / software convergence. Now it’s extending to the platform and up and down the software stack to social and web services.

Not to end this post on an overly sentimental note, but it truly is unfortunate that Steve Jobs isn’t still here pushing the limits of what is possible all around us.

  • DennisC

    Wow. What a remarkable genius! Jobs can see things 30 years ahead of his time.

  • dang1

    my Galaxy Nexus is a great convergence of Samsung hardware and Google software

  • Pingback: Steve Jobs Has had Talked About Hardware Software Convergence As Early As 1980 « WollyTech

  • Jonathan Dodds

    Your point about 1980 is correct in spirit but…

    Microsoft was founded in 1975.

    More relevant:
    The Xerox PARC Alto debuted in 1973 and ‘The Mother of All Demos’ was in 1968.

    • http://stevecheney.com/ steve cheney

      Thanks for visiting / commenting.

      In spirit, yes I think Steve saw hw/sw convergence stuff better than anyone. The early Mac hardware is a testament to how elegant it was but it was really bringing to life the GUI inside that box.

      But yeah interesting that Xerox researchers had a lot of these things conceived even earlier.

  • Pramod Dikshith

    For me Steve Jobs redefined personal computing. For him it was just not about scale unlike Bill Gates who looked at it more from a prism of Scale. Their vision was so different. Bill Gates vision was to have a desktop on everyones desk which is much narrower compared to Steve Jobs who looked at the eco system in a much broad manner and more futuristic.

  • madjr

    I think a new generation of people are trying to do that.

    Mark Shuttleworth has been inspired a lot by Steve Jobs.

    And is why he has been trying to push mobile technology and convergence with his Ubuntu EDGE vision IMO.

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  • SunnyDeigo

    “But this was 1980, years before the Macintosh, before Bill Gates founded Microsoft…” FYI, Microsoft was founded in 1975, before the Apple I was constructed. I enjoy your comment on Steve Job’s, just don’t try to rewrite history.

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