Redmond Diary

By Andrew J. Brust

Blog archive

AppleSoft Basics

There are plenty of posts and articles out there that provide retrospectives of, and pay homage to, Steve Jobs’ tenure as Apple CEO. I’m not an expert on Apple or Jobs, and this is not one of those posts.

But Steve Jobs’ resignation from the CEO post does mark the end of a related era I know something about. It’s the era that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs defined together. And now that both of them have ended their CEO runs and receded to roles as Chairmen of the Board, it’s important to consider just how much these two men did together to pioneer the industry we now all work in and define ourselves by.

Yes, I identify the era with both men, despite many seeing them as perennial adversaries who led companies that approach computing very differently. The fact is that the two men, and the two companies, have a long and storied shared heritage. It dates back to 1977 when 8-bit computing became hot and when Microsoft BASIC ran on each leading machine of that time. I started working with computers a year later, at the age 12. I didn’t own an Apple II, but I used one at school, and remember distinctly the presence of Microsoft BASIC on that machine, albeit branded "AppleSoft BASIC." It’s a fitting name, and drives home an underpinning to this industry that many don’t realize or have chosen to forget.

I could pontificate some more on that, but it’s more effective for people to hear it in context. With that in mind, I recommend to all as required viewing a 2007 interview of Jobs and Gates by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at that year’s All Things D conference. Here’s a link to the video:

It doesn't want to play full-screen, but your browser's zoom function should mitigate this problem.

Watch the full length interview video if you can; it’s really quite stunning. It shows how much more these two companies have in common than they do anything in conflict, and how much the two men share in career history and mutual respect. There are also humbling ironies here, including numerous references to how much bigger Microsoft is than Apple, and Jobs talking about how Apple gets excited if its market share increases by 1 point. (Another irony is that it's a Flash video and won't play on an iPad.)

Best of all though, if you advance to the 37:00 mark, you will hear Bill Gates speak (with Jobs politely listening) of a future where people will have multiple devices, including a tablet (which they will use extensively), a phone ("the device that fits in your pocket") as well a more conventional machine with a screen and keyboard. Then Jobs adds commentary on how resilient the PC is and how its death has been exaggerated.

Jobs continues by discussing post-PC devices, illuminating a difference in the two men’s outlooks that is not insignificant. But by and large, it's as if they are of one philosophy. In highlighting that broad unity, the interview kicks the whole polarized industry paradigm and leaves it on its behind. I look at that as just one more valuable contribution to our field.

Posted by Andrew J. Brust on 08/25/2011

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