If you watch the 60 Minutes segment this Sunday with Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, on the eve of his book being published, you are likely to see up to three clips from my show Triumph of the Nerds. My 1995 interview with Steve for that series is famous for his trashing of Microsoft and has been played over and over on TV for the last 16 years. But that’s not the case with the interview from which that clip came… until now.
The interview we shot that day at NeXT headquarters in Redwood City ran about an hour but we used only 10 minutes in the TV series. It was our second try to meet with Steve, who had felt too ill (I thought too nervous) on our first visit. We were relieved to finally get him.
We planned to use more from the Jobs interview in my followup show Nerds 2.01: A Brief History of the Internet, but the master tapes for TOTN — all of them — were somehow lost while being shipped from London to Portland, Oregon for that second series. The Steve Jobs interview was gone forever.
Then two weeks ago TOTN director Paul Sen found a VHS copy of the Jobs interview stored in his UK garage. This is undoubtedly the only surviving copy of the best TV interview Steve Jobs ever gave yet nobody ever saw.
The tape is PAL-VHS, dubbed on professional equipment from a D1 master, but VHS is still VHS, which is to say crappy. Yet video technology has come a long way since 1995, so we’ve been throwing resolution enhancement voodoo at that tape, trying to get it ready for, well, something, we’re not sure what.
This coming week all the processing will be done, we’ll add a short opener and a few guiding voice annotations to what’s essentially an unedited interview — definitely not the sort of thing you’d normally see on TV. It’s me coaxing Steve into a great performance.
This interview is a moment in time. NeXT was in trouble in 1995, though Steve would never admit it. Apple, too, was at a low point. And none of us could know that NeXT would be sold to Apple within a year and Steve would be back minding the store in Cupertino shortly after that. No iMac, iPod, iPhone, or iPad were envisioned at that time, or if they were Steve wasn’t telling. But that younger Steve of 1995 was very much like the older Steve of 2005 or even 2011 — his devotion to design, to the user, and to bluntly speaking his mind shining through.
What we’ll do with the 64-minute video depends on how good it looks this week. Maybe we’ll put it up on the Net, maybe we’ll do something more. I’m open to your ideas.
It’s a piece of history, that’s for sure, and there couldn’t have been a better time to find it.