David Sheff has a hell of a writing career. He did the last major interview with John Lennon for Playboy, and he’s also conducted major interviews with Frank Zappa, Jack Nicholson, David Hockney, and Carl Sagan.
You may also know Sheff as the author who bravely shared the pain of his son’s addiction in the best-selling book Beautiful Boy.
Of course, Sheff covered the world of gaming and technology with his book about Nintendo, Game Over, and now another major interview he did for Playboy is getting major attention again, his talk with Steve Jobs, which appeared in the February 1985 issue.
Jobs was 29 when Sheff met with him, and his outfit then wasn’t his trademark black turtleneck, but a bow tie and suspenders.
Years before the Internet, Jobs told Sheff, “The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people – as remarkable as the telephone.”
“What kind of breakthrough?”
“I can only begin to speculate,” Jobs replied. “We see that a lot in our industry: You don’t know exactly what’s going to result, but you know it’s something very big and very good.”
At this point in time, Apple had launched just ten years prior out of a garage.
When asked what was the revolution Jobs had started with Steve Wozniak, Jobs said, “This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy, but of free intellectual energy. Our Macintosh computer takes less power than a 100-watt light bulb to run, and it can save you hours a day. What will it be able to do ten or 20 years from now, or 50 years from now. This revolution will dwarf the petrochemical revolution. We’re on the forefront.”
Sheff noted that Jobs was “both admired and feared,” and one Apple engineer told Playboy, “he’s the reason I’ll work 20 hours a day.”
Knowing that Jobs had his detractors, at one point in the interview, Sheff said, “We were warned about you, someone said we were ‘about to be snowed by the best,” to which Jobs smiled and said, “We’re just enthusiastic about what we do.”
Sheff also told a story that he recalled for the recently aired PBS documentary, Steve Jobs – One Last Thing.
Sheff bought Sean Lennon an Apple Mac computer for his 9th birthday, and Jobs was there at the party, showing Sean how to draw with MacPaint. “He told me it was one of the first times he’d watched a child with a Mac,” Sheff recalled.
Then Sheff noticed Andy Warhol right behind him, and he got down on the floor with Sean, learning how to use MacPaint himself. Later Jobs told Sheff, “Older people sit down and ask, ‘What is it?’ but the boy asks, ‘What can I do with it?'”