To say the tech landscape was a much different place would be an understatement.
Yet Steve Jobs made several assessments about the impact that computers and the internet would have on our lives in speeches and interviews from the 1980s and 1990s. His remarks, particularly the ones he made in this Wired interview from 1996, were remarkably on-point.
Here's what Jobs got right:
In an audio recording from Jobs' speech at the International Design Conference in Aspen that year, Jobs refers to "an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you that you that you can learn in five minutes." After the full recording surfaced in 2012 on the Life, Liberty, and Technology Blog, many media outlets pointed out that this description sounds very similar to the iPad.
"The next stage is going to be computers as 'agents,'" he said in a 1984 interview with Newsweek's Access Magazine published by The Daily Beast. "In other words, it will be as if there's a little person inside that box who starts to anticipate what you want. Rather than help you, it will start to guide you through large amounts of information. It will almost be like you have a little friend inside that box."
"You'd start to teach it about yourself," Jobs also said during that same interview. "And it would just keep storing all this information about you and maybe it would recognize that every Friday afternoon you like to do something special, and maybe you'd like it to help you with this routine. So about the third time it asks you: 'Well, would you like me to do this for you every Friday?' You say, 'Yes,' and before long it becomes an incredibly powerful helper. It goes with you everywhere you go. It knows most of the raw information in your life that you'd like to keep, but then starts to make connections between things ..."
"I've always thought it would be really wonderful to have a little box, a sort of slate that you could carry along with you," he also said to Newsweek's Access magazine in 1984.
"You'd get one of these things maybe when you were 10 years old, and somehow you'd turn it on and it would say, you know, 'Where am I?' And you'd somehow tell it you were in California and it would say, 'Oh, who are you?'" he also said during the Access magazine interview.
A 2016 study from Influence Central indicates that the average age a child receives their first phone is 10.3 years old. This also lines up with a Nielsen study from 2017 that indicated 45% of parents polled said that they got a service plan for their child's smartphone between the ages 10 and 12.
"Secondly, it's very exciting because it is going to destroy vast layers of our economy and make available a presence in the marketplace for very small companies, one that is equal to very large companies," he said in 1995 when speaking to the Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation.
Today, startups like Casper sell mattresses directly to consumers, Warby Parker sells frames to people who need eyewear, and Kickstarter lets people support ideas they like.
"The best way to think of the Web is as a direct-to-customer distribution channel, whether it's for information or commerce. It bypasses all middlemen. And, it turns out, there are a lot of middlepersons in this society. And they generally tend to slow things down, muck things up, and make things more expensive. The elimination of them is going to be profound," Jobs said.
"The Web is just going to be one more of those major change factors that businesses face every decade. This decade, in the next 10 years, it's going to be the Web. It's going to be one of them," Jobs said.
Seems like taxi and record companies and bookstores would agree.
"There will be Web dial tone everywhere. And anything that's ubiquitous gets interesting."
When asked about the main beneficiaries of the web, Jobs said that it would be people who have something to sell: "It's commerce. People are going to stop going to a lot of stores. And they're going to buy stuff over the Web!"
"The third thing is commerce, which is even harder than complex publishing because you have to tie the Web into your order-management system, your collection system, things like that. I think we're still two years away. But that's also going to be huge," Jobs said to Wired.
There were missteps on the way, like Pets.com, which had little revenue and went out of business in 2000.
According to the US Census, e-commerce accounted for 9.7% of total retail sales in 2018.
"It's the next big phase of the Web," Jobs said to Wired. "Have you seen the Federal Express Web site where you can track a package?"
"Take auto dealerships. So much money is spent on inventory - billions and billions of dollars. Inventory is not a good thing. Inventory ties up a ton of cash, it's open to vandalism, it becomes obsolete. It takes a tremendous amount of time to manage. And, usually, the car you want, in the color you want, isn't there anyway, so they've got to horse-trade around. Wouldn't it be nice to get rid of all that inventory? Just have one white car to drive and maybe a laserdisc so you can look at the other colors. Then you order your car and you get it in a week," Jobs said.
Of course, Tesla's dealerships could have been influenced by Apple Stores, which were one of Jobs' projects. So obviously there's a debate as to whether Jobs predicted this or influenced it.
Now, Tesla is shutting down some of its brick-and-mortar stores in an effort to cut costs as it shifts to online sales, echoing Jobs' earlier predictions to Wired about e-commerce.
"Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow," he said to Wired. "But until that happens, until there's some fundamental technology shift, it's just over."
In the most recent holiday quarter, shipments of traditional PCs declined by 3.7% year-on-year according to the International Data Corporation.
"I don't store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of e-mail and the Web, and with both of those I don't have to ever manage storage. As a matter of fact, my favorite way of reminding myself to do something is to send myself e-mail. That's my storage," Jobs also said to Wired in 1996.
"It's much like the old mainframe computing environment, where a Web browser is like a dumb terminal and the Web server is like the mainframe where all the processing's done," Jobs said to Wired.
He argued for a more drastic overhaul. Today, his widow, Lauren Powell Jobs, is one of the biggest backers of charter schools.
Considering the average American consumer checks his or her phone 52 times per day according to Deloitte, Jobs may have been onto something. Screen time management has certainly been an area of focus for Apple in recent years, as it introduced features in its iOS 12 software that provide users with insights about how they're using their iPhones.
"The Web is going to be very important. Is it going to be a life-changing event for millions of people? No. I mean, maybe. But it's not an assured Yes at this point. And it'll probably creep up on people.
"It's certainly not going to be like the first time somebody saw a television. It's certainly not going to be as profound as when someone in Nebraska first heard a radio broadcast. It's not going to be that profound," Jobs said.
Eleven years later, Jobs introduced the iPhone.
This is an update of a story originally published in 2016.
Also from Business Insider South Africa: