A unique slice
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, May 25, 2012
Somewhat less epic than its grandiose title sounds, “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” offers intriguing insights into the mind of the late Apple chief executive and high-tech visionary. Shot in 1995 for “Triumph of the Nerds,” a documentary series broadcast on PBS, and until recently presumed lost, the roughly hour-long interview by Robert X. Cringely never aired, except for a few minutes of footage. But the recent resurfacing of a videotape copy -- along with the media attention surrounding Jobs’s death last year -- has renewed interest in the subject.
The footage was recorded a decade after Jobs’s acrimonious 1985 ouster from the company he founded by then-CEO John Sculley (an executive Jobs hired), but just before Jobs’s triumphant return to save the company from almost certain bankruptcy. For those who can’t get enough inside-Apple lore or Jobs minutiae, it’s probably required viewing. It’s not quite as compelling a trove of information for everyone else. Jobs talks at length about how he got into computers as a kid, and later as a businessman, but certain details of more general interest -- such as where the company’s name came from -- are overlooked.
Jobs speaks at length of the development of such milestones as the computer mouse, the graphical user interface, desktop publishing and the networked office. But the most fascinating aspect of listening to him talk comes not from what he says about what he did, but how he talks about it. In the first 15 minutes of the film, Jobs uses such emotionally charged expressions as “enamored,” “fell in love,” “miraculous” and “captivated” to describe his earliest engagement with the tech field.
The emphasis on what Jobs calls “feeling” and what he later describes as “taste” -- the one ineffable quality that Apple’s competitor Microsoft is sorely lacking, according to him -- is what makes “The Lost Interview” so fascinating.
Taste isn’t a word often associated with technology. And it’s even a little startling to hear the word come out of the mouth of someone who believes that everyone should be made to study programming, so they can learn “how to think.” But Jobs’s taste was probably his genius. Unlike thinking, it’s something that probably can’t be taught, and certainly not in a class in computer programming.
Maybe, in the end, “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” is really an argument for increased arts funding. Despite the title of Cringely’s original TV series, Jobs doesn’t hesitate to characterize himself in this film as way more hippie than nerd.
Contains brief obscenity.