More than serendipity, some sort of harmonies of the spheres connected two talks by two greats separated by 29 years – on the idea of the internet as radio.
On my drives recently I have listened at least twice to a recently surfaced recording of a talk Jobs gave in 1983 at the International Design Conference in Aspen.
The recording was originally on cassette tape and thus not primo audio, but it is gold.
You have to keep in mind this was maybe the Ordovician era of microcomputers, The Apple IIe was starte of the art, and many of the things we take for granted (fonts, colors, big storage, networks), were just ideas. There are a ton of things he forecasts that come to be later as iPads, wireless networking, even Google Street View.
Jobs goes McLuhan in talking about how new media first replicate what was done in old, how early TV replicated radio, until events like the JFK funeral and the Apollo Moon Landing brought a sense as to what as done differently in TV– he relates this in conext of 1983 as computers being in the “I Love Lucy era”.
But catch this idea as he describes the problem of having thousands of titles of software, and people go to computer stores to ask what kind they should be- which he compares to you going to a music store and asking the clerks there to tell you what kind of music to listen to. His insight is the idea that radio provides consumers with enough of a sample of music so they know what they want to buy
And he says, “We need a software radio station” and goes on to describe how 30 second samples of software (ahem, iTunes sample size>) might be made available for free via the telephone lines, and even ordering them via credit card online.
Isn’t this software radio station the internet?
This was rolling around the random neurons of my brain when I listened to another visionary, Neil Young from a February 2012 interview where he talks about the “Donkey and Digital Music”. Neil blows these guys away with his knowledge of sound technology and his forceful stance that the digital music we commonly use, MP3, represents but 5% of the quality of the original recording.
When asked about how he feels about piracy of his music online, Neil flips the unexpected when he describes “the Internet as the new radio, radio is gone”:
In a later section, he crosses it over to say “piracy is the new radio”
And this has rather eerie parallels to what Jobs describes- that in the digital network space there is a need for a free radio-like system, where content can be sampled and tried out, and then people will purchase the high quality product because they know what they want.
Is it just me or is this connection amazing? Actually not, because Neil goes on to talk about how he and Jobs shared the same idea. After Steve Jobs pioneered digital music, “when he went home, he listened to vinyl.”
After finding this harmonic connection, I felt compelled to put Steve and Neil together on a little duet with a little Hip Hop Drum Beat from freesound.org:
Same idea, almost 30 years apart. Radio.