In the early 1980’s, I was in New Orleans for a computer conference. I can remember where I was sitting when I first saw Steve Jobs speak. He was promoting the newly introduced Macintosh computer. Jobs stood there in his suit and bow tie and pitched a vision. The company’s tag line was “Macintosh—The Computer for the Rest of Us.” Jobs presentation sticks with me to this day. I already knew about the Macintosh computer, which later became known as “the Mac;” what I learned that day is how the personal computer would fit into my life.
We early adopters in the 1980’s used personal computers for business, and when we took a break, we slipped in the Asteroid Field game diskette. Personal computers were new to the general public, and they were expensive. The IBM PC, introduced in August 1981, was priced at $7,850 in today’s dollars. The Apple Macintosh was introduced in January 1984 and was priced at $5,800.
Jobs took the stage and gave me his vision for my personal computer. He put meaning to the idea of a computer for the rest of us.
He began by characterizing the PC as a desktop accessory. He showed us all the tools we used to do our work: desk, phone, pencil, paper, and stapler. He then showed how this new desktop accessory fit into our existing desktop. That day in New Orleans was the first time I really understood how this smaller computer (the markets were dominated by mini computers at the time) would change the way I work at my desk. He gave me a personal vision for my personal computer.
This is what entrepreneurs do. They see a reality which does not yet exist. They have a high-definition picture in their mind’s eye which they communicate in a way that helps us see it too. Once we have this vision, we are compelled to act, to buy computers which cost $5,800 so we too can make the vision our reality.
And Jobs did not stop there. He continued to see clearly how electronic devices, his electronic devices, would change our lives. I remember the day he introduced the iPod and iTunes. He showed us a reality of how we could consume music. He showed us a storage and play device, the iPod, which was connected to our computers which was connected to the internet. Now we were no longer stuck with physical media. He opened the world of music to us, and we could carry it anywhere.
In 2006 when Jobs reached into the coin pocket on his jeans and pulled out the iPod Nano, the vision for how we would buy and consume music was completed. Or was it?
In 2007 Jobs showed us the iPhone. No longer did we need a phone device and a music device; it was all in one.
With each presentation, Steve Jobs communicated a vision for how these new consumer electronic devices fit into our lives. How they would change our lives for the better. Steve Jobs loved creating new products and telling us how easy they are to use and how enjoyable they are to own. He did this to the day he died.
This is an innate talent of entrepreneurs. They see future realities we do not yet see. Entrepreneurs communicate these visions of the future in such a way that they resonate with us as truths. We get it and we want it. This is one of the most important gifts of the entrepreneur.
I would have loved to see Jobs pitch his vision for the Apple Watch. I question whether he would have released it. Apple lost the person who can compel me to make his vision a reality. Entrepreneurs do what mere humans can not; they compel others to make their vision a reality.