The Tech Seer: Steve Jobs's Uncanny Prescience

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John G. Mabanglo / AFP-Getty Images

AN INTERNET WORLD When he called it: 1985

Back when computers were just becoming personally affordable, Jobs pointed to a future in which each machine would be tied 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,” Jobs said. In the same interview, he seemed to predict his own exile from Apple, saying: “I’ll always stay connected with Apple. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back.”

YOUTUBE MANIA When he called it: 2001

Four years before the invention of YouTube, Jobs pointed out that although many people consumed media online, they would soon start creating content, too. “One of our issues as a society going forward is to teach kids to express themselves in the medium of their generation,” he said in an interview with Newsweek. “The medium of our times is video and photography, but most of us are still consumers as opposed to being authors.”

STARTUP REVOLUTION When he called it: 1995

Early on in the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, Jobs foresaw a new economic order in which lean and hungry tech firms would challenge the established giants of the corporate world. “It is going to destroy vast layers of our economy and make available a presence in the marketplace for very small companies, one that is equal to very large companies,” he told the Smithsonian Institution.

PERSONALIZED EVERYTHING When he called it: 1995

Long before e-commerce got off the ground, Jobs knew the Web was ripe for innovative, personalized marketing. “The way to look at the Web is, it’s the ultimate direct-to-customer distribution channel,” he told Newsweek in 1995. “You won’t be looking at a Web page that 3,000 other people are looking at. You’re looking at one that’s exactly what you want to see, whether it’s information on that new Chrysler Neon that you want to buy or whether it’s Merrill Lynch showing you your portfolio of stock.”

A DIGITAL HELPMATE When he called it: 1984

Well over a decade before the first smartphones, Jobs foresaw computers that could help you make sense of your life. “It will be as if there’s a little person inside that box who starts to anticipate what you want,” he told Newsweek. “Rather than help you, it will start to guide you through large amounts of information. It will almost be like you have a little friend inside that box.” Apple unveiled Siri, a humanlike personal assistant that understands speech, on Oct. 4, 2011—just one day before Jobs died.

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