In a previously unreleased, nearly 20-year-old interview, Steve Jobs made a prescient statement about the current state of the company he made so famous. "All the work that I have done in my life will be obsolete by the time I'm 50," said Jobs, who died at 56 and introduced the iPhone just weeks before his 52nd birthday (at which point the Apple 1 was very much obsolete), in a short clip (below) provided by the Silicon Valley Historical Association to promote a new, 60-minute documentary. "This is a field where one does not write a Principia which holds up for 200 years. This is not a field where one paints a painting that will be looked at for centuries, or builds a church that will be admired and looked at in astonishment for centuries. No, this is a field where one does ones work and in 10 years it's obsolete," Jobs said way back in 1994.
At the time of this rather disheartening but nonetheless Moore's Law-esque premonition, of course, Jobs was anywhere but at the peak of his career, working for NeXt computers, while his original claims to fame, the Apple 1 and 2 had, indeed, become well past their prime and maybe even usefulness — except, maybe in a historical association. In the 1994 interview, he was probably speaking to that time of his life. But even so, the current heads of Apple might want to keep his words in mind as they continue to take over the reigns: At some point, everything Steve Jobs conceived will become obsolete — and then what?
Apple still very much profits from — and the world very much runs on — the genius of Jobs, from the iPhone to iTunes to the MacBook Air. But what happens when those things are no longer relevant to consumers? We've started to see the beginnings of this transition with the new iPhone operating system and it's not very pretty. (We know, we know, it's in beta, but still.) That doesn't mean Apple can't build the next great thing, but even Jobs knew that a company had to keep creating the next big things to succeed. The Tim Cooks and Jony Ives of the world would do well to live by these genius words:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.