Steve Jobs died one year ago next Friday. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not shrivel up without him as some predicted, and others hoped for gleefully, nor did the face of the tech industry change drastically. Something was lost, however, in the death of a man who had come to symbolize innovation, and success, in the modern economy.
In the run up to the anniversary the internet is once again becoming full of Jobs memorabilia and articles. Today’s big find, from the Huffington Post, is a formerly lost recording of Steve Jobs answering questions after his famous 1983 speech entitled “The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be”.
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The internet is ablaze with comment about the piece, which contains an articulate Jobs describing a future of computing eerily close to our own, and several degrees of psychic ability have already been attributed to Apple’s former CEO.
In the audio recording, Steve Jobs describes a future in which people will able to read there emails on the go, spend more time with their computers than with their cars, and speaks about the difficulties of building accurate voice recognition.
The most commented on piece of the interview with Steve Jobs, is the point at which he appears to predict wifi, cloud computing, and the modern internet all in one sentence.
“And we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.”
Steve Jobs first anniversary is not the time to attribute him with supernatural powers, or even incredible foresight. Jobs’ predictions were based on emerging technologies and careful study of trends in the tech industry.
Coming from a different angle entirely, Douglas Adams invented the iPad and wireless internet access in his 1979 science fiction novel the “Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy”. That prediction was probably not based on the careful study that Steve Jobs learned from, though it was an incredibly useful, and funny, plot device.
That is equally unlikely to have been the first prediction of tablet-like devices or wireless data transmission. Thirty years ago it was possible to semi accurately predict the future of computing, though it was equally likely such predictions would end up wrong.
If a 1984 recording emerged tomorrow, in which Steve Jobs pronounced that the world would be in chaos in the late 1990s because of out of control crime, an observation made by many experts in the 1980s, we would not be discrediting his legacy. Why embolden it with claims of prescience?
Steve Jobs is credited with the creation of the world’s biggest company. That company, with Jobs at its helm, is credited with changing the way people use computers forever, and continuing to do so. Steve Jobs was probably not planning the iPad in 1983. He was almost certainly not inventing wi-fi.
Steve Jobs is almost universally acclaimed for his influence in the American technological landscape in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. His legacy will, without a doubt, lead many to attempt following in his footsteps, seeing a product that could be better and doing it.
He could not, from what we know about humanity, predict the future. Nor were his predictions all that uncommon for the time. His legacy should not be muddied with such bland .
As we head toward the first anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death, many will wish to remember the inspirational figure, and mark the date in some way. Out of respect for everyone involved, including the self, Steve Jobs should be remembered and celebrated as he was, without these shamanistic attachments.