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NeXT MIT Talk 1992 Analysis

written by Kevin A. Sensenig


Here is a presentation and analysis of what really is a valuable talk by Steve Jobs, NeXT CEO, at MIT, in 1992.

It is my own view.  See what you notice yourself, in the video.

2020 August 28

Steve Jobs President & CEO, NeXT Computer Corp and Apple. MIT Sloan Distinguished Speaker Series

The video is online at YouTube here.  This is the same video as embedded just above.

Analysis -- About The NeXT Hardware And Software

The NeXT hardware and software platform was advanced.  It was advanced for its time, and it would, with commensurate enhancements since, be an advanced hardware and software platform today.  You can view a photo of the NeXTcube here.  You can review the Wikipedia entry for NeXTcube here.  You can view a photo of the NeXTstation here.  You can review the Wikipedia entry for NeXTstation here.  There also was the NeXTstation.  NeXTstep was the operating system, runtime and developer's environment, and user environment.  NeXTstep was built on the BSD Unix-like operating system. (BSD was one of the instances of the UNIX-like free and open source versions.)  You can view a photo of NeXTstep here.  You can review the Wikipedia entry for NeXTstep here.

On NeXTstep, you had a visual graphical user interface, mouse, keyboard, menus (its own brilliant float, point, and tear-off menu design), windowing system, object-oriented look and feel, chiseled and low-key design theory with spot colors and painterly effect, a 3-d chiseled look and feel (as if the sun was shining from above back left onto chiseled stone of several shades, shadow and highlight), preemptive multitasking (so that application processing and compute resources were provided by the system, to the application, in a secure, distributive, protective, reliable, and performance way), object-oriented application runtime and software development (this is an entire field to itself; and the visuals of the GUI suggested this in the first place, as did the NeXT logo), networking (tcp/ip and Internet -aware), and apps like Mail, Lotus Improv, Adobe Illustrator, Stone Design Create, Digital Librarian (which had formatted documents, manuals, and books, text searchable), Project Builder, Interface Builder, Allegro Common Lisp, WriteNow, TextEdit, Workspace Manager, NetInfo (for administrative management and configuration of the system), and eventually OmniWeb or SpiderWoman Web Browsers.  There was the Color Wheel and Text Font Inspector for those features, usable in a standard way across apps, that the software developer could utilize easily.

There was Lip Service, which for example allowed one to select a point in an email body (the text one was typing), right-click, and record one's voice via the built-in display microphone; then play back to test, and insert into the email at the insertion point.  Whereupon it would display a LipService item icon, that the recipient (using a NeXTstep computer) could open and play back.  Voicemail or mp3 over tcp/ip, the Internet, via Mail.  Simple, advanced, conceptual, and interpersonal.

The NeXTstation was marketed in 1990 as the idea, Interpersonal Computing.  Brilliant.

The NeXTstation hardware had a supercomputer on a chip that was VLSI (very large scale integration, integrated circuit, chip design and manufacture, architecture and types of do-somethings, all on one chip).  This supercomputer on a chip (as NeXT termed it) did i/o mapping, memory management and mapping, sound i/o, network i/o, display i/o, and so forth.  The cpu was a Motorala 68030 and math coprocessor and later the 68040 (math coprocessor built in).  There was a DSP (digital signal processor, useful for communication, scientific and mathematical computation, and manufacturing) and external port for this.  There was the keyboard and two-button (I think) mouse.  The NeXTstation came with a 17 inch MegaPixel grayscale and later color monitor.  There were available an external audio speaker, third-party modem, the NeXTprinter (a 400 dpi laser printer), and third-party scsi hard disk drives.

The NeXTstation and NeXTcube and their optional products, and NeXTstep, were integrated units.  They worked brilliantly, and as one would intuit.

Analysis -- The MIT Steve Jobs 1992 Talk (The Video Above)

Steve Jobs was the startup creator of NeXT, Inc. in I think 1985.  I think he invested $100 million of his own money, and from others, and got the idea and team going and together, and worked on it with his team, over time.  The NeXTstation was released by 1990, and the NeXTcube was on its second or third version, also available in 1990.  It -- the  NeXT product set, each of them -- was a brilliant concept and product, allowing so much in terms of performance, being the right scale, features, extensibility, design, and intuition.

in the MIT 1992 talk above, Steve Jobs has real bonus for his explanations, genuine attitude, and sharp observations.  So one can study those.  I'd highlight his emphasis on objects, object-oriented software development and apps, and mission-critical custom apps.  He found out who was present in the audience.  The way NeXT did product design, manufacturing, inventory, and factory -- integrated with the use of their own product, and object-oriented-created software -- was one key thing.  Very nice, brilliant, exceptional.

I noticed for myself several strategic and tactical mistakes.  At one point he asked the audience, how many are from financial markets, and some were present.  He said, good; we have product for that and have been working in the financial sector.  He asked the audience, how many are from manufacturing, and some were present.  He said, good; we have manufacturing that we've integrated with NeXTstep also, and he described this.  He asked the audience, how many are from consulting, and some were present.  He said good, ... except, he said, "You really shouldn't waste your mind." if I recall correctly.


There goes the 90 percent of the market (or 30 percent) that NeXT should have had, along with Microsoft's 90 percent (or 30 percent) by 1998.  The DigitalLibrarian, by 1992 or 1994 could have had the option to install on it, a purchased or free document, or book, such as "Tao Te Ching", "The Gateless Barrier: Zen Comments On The Mumonkan", "The Holy Bible", "The Koran", "The United States Constitution And Declaration Of Independence", "Aesop's Fables", "The Republic", "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", "The Society Of Mind", "Philosophy Of Right", and some books that you can name, for yourself (and may have suggested, in 1992-1994, if one had known and had had a contact point -- by say Mail or email).

Consultants become familiar with, train, configure, build, and install systems for their clients, and market to new ones, in a variety of ways.  They are aware of various markets, businesses, business processes, design theory, database management systems, ways to develop software, program, and deploy it; and they are expert at talking to people, managers, users (in all the company's roles, teams, and workgroups), and executives alike.

Depending on the product and technology available and suitable for a purpose, the consultant can and does study the product and technology, use the product and technology, and if appropriate, make others aware of the product and technology; and in working consultant, and consulting team, will market this to others, other companies and workgroups, and other individuals.

In addition, say given consultant -- or individual -- in 1992 or 1993 could have suggested, for Digital Librarian, "Boy Scout Handbook", "Girl Scout Handbook", or "Richard Scarry's Wonderful Big Book Of Things, Town, Doing-Things, And Such" [I forget its precise title] -- or "Tractatus Logic-Philosophicus By Wittgenstein", "Euclid's Elements", "How To Sketch With Pen And Pencil, And A Sheet Of Paper, Or An 4 x 6 Index Card Set", "How To Use Watercolors To Create Your Own Wonderful Painting", "How To Paint With Acrylics", or "The Basic Works Of Aristotle".  Available at www.next.com/DigitalLibrarianStore, for purchase and download.  Via the Web.  Needed: one's own NeXTstep (on NeXTcube, NeXTstation, or Intel box), a modem, and a phone line, and a credit card or debit card.  Awareness first, product and technology second, and digital book -- for Digital Librarian -- third.  With some facts, states of affairs, interdependence, independence and automony, dependencies, interoperability, and interconnectivity.  With, also, some resources, awareness, interest, imagination, and availability.  A deepening human experience.

Another mistake was when he said, to his audience, if I recall correctly, "Come work for NeXT."  That might work in some situations, but here I would have anticipated that this is the very type of market and individual, in this audience, that became interested in NeXT in the first place -- and I need, and NeXT needs, and the people out there need, in these various markets, all these need interpersonal computing, an integrated product at all blocks and levels and architecture, the benefits of objects and retail and independent and custom apps -- and we want these people out there by a factor of 10 or 100.  So here's a business card, with a dedicated contact and awareness team, that you can talk to, a card or 10 cards for each person in the audience, handed out by Steve Jobs or his assistant in the room

Another mistake NeXT had picked up that Steve Jobs described as their strategy (he did not identify it as a mistake) was that NeXT was marketing, he said, "We sell 90 percent NeXTstep software and 10 percent NeXT hardware."  But with the integration, the integrated and systems- and architecture-aware nature of the NeXTcube, the NeXTstation, and NeXTstep, it would have been far better to say, "We sell, and let me describe for you, the 300 % that is NeXTstep, the 300 % that is NeXTstation and NeXTcube hardware, and how that, put together, factors to 3 trillion % of NeXT computing, right on your desktop.  For you, the company or person.  In whatever field, and in whatever way you can productively and delightfully use it."

And with manufacturing, he should have mentioned the NeXTstation hardware, the DSP chip, the application development possible with it, and the several types of things that manufacturing could really apply, with a DSP chip, the NeXTstation, NeXTstep, conrols, and object-oriented programming.  Things like the FFT (fast Fourier Transform), testing, and quality control.

And this also turns into custom apps, engineering and manufacturing at many individual companies, and retail software and objects.

So NeXT had excellent product, top-notch, key, an example of and instruction for one type of modeling- and conceptual- and tactile-computing.  But not a market persistence product, or volume, over time.

The NeXTcube, NeXTstation, and NeXTprinter -- the entire hardware side of things -- was shut down a year later, after this talk.  Steve Jobs had hired all the right expert team, it seems, at the executive level, by this time in 1992 when he gave the MIT talk --  although the concept, technology, product, concept in marketing, Lotus Improv, and term 'interpersonal computing' were there, in NeXt concept, product, initial technology and design team, and marketing literature, in 1990.

This talk at MIT was in 1992.

In 1993, NeXT became a software-only company, making NeXTstep 3.3 for Intel.


Copyright 2017-2020 Kevin A. Sensenig.  All trademarks are those of their respective owners.