Apple co-founder and computer-age visionary Steve Jobs died this week after a long bout with cancer. It’s no overstatement to say that the 56-year-old Californian transformed how we live, from the way we communicate to the way we share and consume media.
Jobs changed the world from Silicon Valley, whose fortunes and rise mirrored his own. Back in 1982, National Geographic magazine chronicled the burgeoning tech hub in “High Tech, High Risk, and High Life in Silicon Valley,” recognizing that the “former prune patch an hour’s drive south of San Francisco” was becoming the “heartland of an electronics revolution that may prove as far-reaching as the industrial revolution of the 19th century … Silicon Valley may well be a glimpse of a computer-and-communications culture that is the prototype of the future.”
That story also contained prescient words about Jobs. Even then, it was clear that his distinctive taste—and taste for distinctions—was firmly in place:
“We’d rather call the Apple a personal than a home computer.”
So was his role as corporate, revenge-of-the-nerds idol:
Jobs has become a potent role model for a new breed of bright kids who are writing and selling software programs and, with their arcane computer skills, gaining the prestige formerly tasted only by the high-school football team.
But the most fun reason to read about Jobs in an old National Geographic? It might be to see a bearded, booted young man zooming about on a boss 1966 BMW motorcycle.
“Although Jobs drives the requisite Mercedes,” adds the article, “success seems not to have spoiled the first folk hero of the computer age. In plaid shirt and jeans, he still prefers, as a friend said, ‘to drive his motorcycle to my place, sit around and drink wine, and talk about what we’re going to do when we grow up.’”
—Jeremy Berlin is an editor at National Geographic magazine.