October 24, 1988 Three years after leaving Apple, Steve Jobs is preparing to launch the NeXT Computer, a machine he hopes will solidify his reputation as a technological genius and destroy the machines produced by Cupertino.
The new NeXT Computer gets a wave of positive publicity. Fake stories show exactly what the 33-year-old Jobs was working on – and what’s next.
NEXT: The computer the world has been waiting for
Newsweek i Time published two articles on the same day, both abounding in Jobs’ new computer with rapturous admiration. The two articles in question were entitled “The Soul of the Next Machine” (named after the excellent book by Tracy Kidder The soul of a new machine) and, simply, “Steve Jobs is back.”
Looking back on the stories now, we return to an unusual point in Jobs’ career. He seems far from the strict, respected digital emperor he became during the last decade of his life.
In NeXT, Jobs was about to shut up or shut up. His new machine will show if he can run a third world-changing computer (after Apple II and Macintosh). This time, it would have to do so without Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak or pioneering graphical user interface company Xerox PARC.
Moreover, unlike Apple – which started in the lowest, DIY way imaginable – NeXT was a money pit into which Jobs threw his wealth. The NeXT logo itself cost him $ 100,000. Other stories from that time also show the image of an still immature, perfectionist visionary who refuses to be satisfied with anything but the best. As Newsweek noticed:
“Jobs has a lot more in the game than the $ 12 million he invested in NeXT. He is also restoring his reputation. Critics say Jobs’ success at Apple was an accident, and that he is little more than a showman with the skill to package someone else’s engineering. Jobs is still angry about his 1985 showdown with John Sculley, the CEO he recruited at Apple – and who overthrew him in the power struggle. The public tended to see Jobs as techno-punk, extremely talented and charming, but a bit arrogant. Learning from his defeat and reappearing with a mature new style and machine would show the world that Steve Jobs is a serious computer maker, that he can run a company – and that he has finally grown up. ”
Steve Jobs: ‘Techno-punk’?
Even if Jobs was “Techno-punk,” by 1988, many people had embraced the technological lifestyle. Just a decade earlier, when the Apple II was launched, mainstream publications were astonished to cover personal computers. In the late 1970s, many smart journalists talked about storing recipes as a “killer application” for personal computers.
However, by the time NeXT Computer was supposed to be launched, Time writer Philip Elmer-Dewitt opened his article like this:
“To be a hit among people, a computer must be more than the sum of its hardware and software and metal skin. The most successful machines have a built-in emotional component, something that connects the tools in the computer with the whims of the users. Maybe no one understands that better than Steven Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer and the man who made the personal computer a household term. ”
Reading articles about the upcoming launch of NeXT will give you a definite sense of social change.
Paying homage to the NeXT computer
I’ll write more about NeXT Computer when we celebrate its actual launch anniversary. But today’s sequel “Today in Apple’s history” shows two things. That takes us back to a time before Steve Jobs was, well, Steve Jobs. It also shows how the world has embraced what Jobs was preparing to do at NeXT.
This formed much of the pattern for the enthusiastic responses given to Jobs ’later world-changing devices.
Remember the NeXT computer? Do you own one? Leave your comments below.
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