I’m a sucker for old Steve Jobs videos I haven’t seen before. And here’s one that was brought to my attention by my friend Jonathan Rotenberg, who led the Boston Computer Society and spent a considerable amount of time with Jobs, who spoke at several memorable BCS events in the 1980s.
This video dates from 1990, during the period when Jobs was out of Apple and working on NeXT and Pixar. It was produced by a team which interviewed him for a documentary about Joseph Juran, a legendary expert on quality management who visited NeXT several times to learn and impart his wisdom.
Though some of the 19-minute video is devoted to discussion of Juran’s philosophies—and of-their-time issues such as Japan presenting a scary competitive threat to the U.S.—there are a number of moments that are pure Jobs. Jonathan found one sound bite particularly striking:
I’ve had an opportunity to meet a few great people in my life and they all have had one characteristic in common, which is that they treat everyone the same, whether it’s the janitor or the president of the company, whether it’s the President of the United States or someone in a rural slum. They treat them exactly the same. If a question is asked, they will directly answer that question to the best of their ability. The look in their eyes is exactly the same.
Here’s what Jonathan wrote on Facebook:
BCS members who had the chance to interact with Steve when he used to come to Boston Computer Society meetings in the 80s know exactly what I mean. He was so excited for EACH individual—no matter how young or old, how quick or mentally challenged, how technical or nontechnical—to be able to ask whatever question was important to them. And there was so much heart and care put into each carefully thought-out answer that Steve would provide.
Maybe the same attitude led Jobs to personally reply to random emails from Apple customers. He was always terse, often blunt, and sometimes crabby. But he did treat everyone the same, and took this customer-service gig seriously even after Apple became one of the largest companies in the world.
Everyone with an interest in Steve Jobs knows about some of the instances in which he failed to be consistently nice to his fellow human beings. But Jonathan, to whom Jobs was both friend and mentor, had a unique, close-up view of the Apple cofounder at work—and so his take on Jobs’ humane side matters a lot.