Learning from the master


In 1985 I took a job at Logica. In those days we were developing systems for teletext and subtitles, and later for graphics management, using computer hardware from DEC, a brand name that disappeared in 1998 when it was acquired by Compaq. The PDP-11 was revolutionary in that it was a 16 bit computer, but even then there was a suspicion that it did not very much in quite a big box.
But while surrounded by these clunky computers that needed to be addressed in an arcane language, someone at Logica invested in a couple of very early Macs. Legend has it that the first two Macs in the UK were owned by Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry, but the one I used must have been very close behind.
This first generation Mac was not perfect by any means. It had no internal hard disk and just one floppy slot, so to get anything done you spent a lot of time swapping programme and data disks in and out of the machine.
But the simple going on idiot-proof user interface came like a bolt from the blue. This was obviously, self-evidently the way things should be done. It’s a computer, for heaven’s sake – it should do all the hard thinking about data and storage and memory partitions and operating systems. All we should do is point and click.
“The computer for the rest of us” was one of the first of Steve Jobs’ utterances that caught the public imagination. He was the same age as me, so I can be forgiven for brooding on his death. But that vision of a computer which took all the boring stuff away and just did what we wanted has changed all of our worlds.
No, Apple did not invent the graphical user interface. But it was the first to make it work well: intuitively, seamlessly and effortlessly. As Jobs said in his famous commencement address at Stanford University on 2005, “since Windows copied the Mac, every personal computer got it”.
The Stanford speech is on YouTube. If you have not seen it, give yourself 15 minutes of simple inspiration. You can scan this QR code to view it directly......

In it, Jobs reveals that he dropped out of college after six months, although he hung around for another year or so, taking classes that caught his fancy. One of those was calligraphy, which he said was “beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science cannot capture”.
If he had not dropped out he would not have taken a calligraphy course, and if he had not taken that course we would not have a selection of aesthetic and proportionally spaced fonts on our computers. Imagine going back to a squared-off electronic version of courier for everything.
Jobs brought John Sculley in to run Apple – famously asking the former Pepsi-Cola chief if he wanted to sell sugar water for the rest of his life – and almost immediately the two fell out, resulting in Jobs being sacked from the company he jointly founded. Rather than drink the payoff money he founded a little company called Pixar and made a movie called Toy Story.
He also set up a computer company called Next, which built a very slick user interface on a rock-solid Unix core. Apple in his absence made some bad moves – I actually owned a Newton, although not for very long before it drove me mad – and its internal project to develop a new software platform failed miserably. The Apple board made the only sensible decision: it bought Next. Oh, and one more thing – it made Steve Jobs CEO of Apple again.
He was fond of quoting Henry Ford’s line that “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. If you Google that quote you will find countless blogs by market researchers and product managers who say that it is nonsense and you cannot create anything without a focus group.
Did we know we wanted to carry all our music around in our pockets? Did the music industry think anything good would come out of the internet? Did we know we wanted a device on our coffee tables that would give us information literally at a touch, and connect us to the world, but which was most definitely not a computer?
I never met Steve Jobs. Word is that he was a nightmare boss, because he knew exactly what he wanted and was tireless until his vision was realised. We would certainly regard him as a workaholic: his take was that “work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to love what you do”.
The best summation I have seen comes from John Gruber of the Daring Fireball blog. He said “one of Jobs’ many gifts was that he knew what to give a shit about”. RIP Steve, and may we all have the vision of what we want to achieve, and the wisdom to know what to give a shit about.

Tags: steve jobs | apple | logica | iss059 | dec | pdp-11 | steve jobs stanford speech | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Virtual Panel on Apple watch from Clear-Com at NAB 2018

    Virtual Panel on Apple watch from Clear-Com at NAB 2018

  • Softron Media Services on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Softron Media Services on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Global Distribution with mLogic at IBC 2013

    Global Distribution with mLogic at IBC 2013

  • Softron Media at IBC 2013

    Softron Media at IBC 2013

  • AJA at IBC2011

    AJA at IBC2011

  • 170fps 10bit 8k decode shown by Cinegy at NAB 2019

    170fps 10bit 8k decode shown by Cinegy at NAB 2019

  • 3D Storm show the new NDI to HDMI decoder at NAB 2019

    3D Storm show the new NDI to HDMI decoder at NAB 2019

  • Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

    Cinegy Daniel 2 Codec shown at IBC 2018

  • Camdec at BVE 2014

    Camdec at BVE 2014

  • SmallHD shows the Cine 7 monitor with camera control and integrated Teradek Bolt at NAB 2019

    SmallHD shows the Cine 7 monitor with camera control and integrated Teradek Bolt at NAB 2019

  • Phabrix Technology Demo at IBC 2016

    Phabrix Technology Demo at IBC 2016

  • VITEC at IBC 2015

    VITEC at IBC 2015

  • Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

    Glensound Dante at IBC 2014

  • Phabrix RX series at IBC 2014

    Phabrix RX series at IBC 2014

  • Wohler MPEG Monitoring Series at IBC 2014

    Wohler MPEG Monitoring Series at IBC 2014

  • Ateme at IBC 2014

    Ateme at IBC 2014

  • Wohler MPEG Monitoring at BVE 2014

    Wohler MPEG Monitoring at BVE 2014

  • Blackmagic Design on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Blackmagic Design on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Wohler Technologies on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Wohler Technologies on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Sound Devices on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Sound Devices on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • ATEME at IBC 2013

    ATEME at IBC 2013

  • JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

    JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

  • Visionary Solutions at NAB 2013

    Visionary Solutions at NAB 2013

  • Facilis at NAB 2013

    Facilis at NAB 2013

  • Oxygen DCT at BVE North 2012

    Oxygen DCT at BVE North 2012

  • ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

    ATOMOS at BVE North 2012

  • Telestream at NAB 2012

    Telestream at NAB 2012

  • Oxygen DCT at BVE North 2011

    Oxygen DCT at BVE North 2011

  • Holdan and Teradek at BVE North 2011

    Holdan and Teradek at BVE North 2011

  • Blackmagic at IBC2011

    Blackmagic at IBC2011

  • Prodys at IBC2011

    Prodys at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • Show 8 - BroadcastShow Christmas Special

    Show 8 - BroadcastShow Christmas Special


Articles
Making the Workflow Flow
Bruce Devlin - new The toughest things about being the Standards Vice President (SVP) is that everyone expects standards to be the most important thing. In all the systems that I’ve designed and deployed over the years, I've yet to find any production workflow that is 100% standards based. True, the core technologies may well be standards based, but the overall workflow is made up of many technology pieces from open source code, through de-facto delivery specifications based upon SMPTE or Trade Association Specifications that in turn depend on full, International Standards to work. I can already hear some folks saying "In the good old days, everything used standards", but I beg to disagree.
Tags: iss138 | pye museum | pye-philips | smpte | ietf | ieee | w3c | aes | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read or download PDF
Centre Stage for Cameras with All About Eve
Anthony Newton Taking its inspiration from the classic 1950 film, Ivo van Hove’s stage production of All About Eve, starring Gillian Anderson as theatre darling, Margo Channing, and Lily James as the eponymous Eve, retains the themes of ageing, celebrity and obsession. The piece, produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Fox Stage Productions garnered stellar reviews during its recent run at London’s Noel Coward Theatre.
Tags: iss138 | blackmagic design | micro studio camera | ronin | smartscope duo | Anthony Newton
Contributing Author Anthony Newton Click to read or download PDF
How the Womens World Cup was Boosted by Broadcast
John Griffiths As we write this article, England’s Lionesses have just beaten Norway 3-0 and are smashing viewing figure records, with 6.9 million viewers tuning in to watch them play Cameroon on BBC One. Rewind to the previous World Cup in 2015, and England’s group and early stage knockout games tempted up to 2.5 million viewers for each match. It’s safe to say that women’s football is finally having its moment; what was perhaps once considered a niche sport is finally gaining momentum in the mainstream space with broadcasters giving it the attention it deserves.
Tags: iss138 | wwc | world cup | spicymango | diversity | John Griffiths
Contributing Author John Griffiths Click to read or download PDF
Make Time for Remapping
Alex Macleod For my 4th Kitplus article I thought I’d highlight an effect in Premiere Pro that frankly I would be lost without. Namely - time remapping.
Tags: iss138 | premiere pro | post production | editing | speed remapping | remapping | mediacity training | Alex Macleod
Contributing Author Alex Macleod Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation: Wings, Fine Coffee and Fake Nudes
Dick Hobbs - new One of the many attractions of this time of year is that I get to meet with my fellow judges for the IBC Innovation Awards, and see what the industry sees as the most important, most forward-looking projects of the day. For me, this says what the key talking points are going to be in September, far more eloquently than the endless press releases from vendors which are already tumbling into my inbox.
Tags: iss138 | ibc | smpte 2110 | deepnude | cisco | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF