Coming Soon to a Theater: The Lost Steve Jobs Interview

Back in 1995, Steve Jobs was interviewed by Robert Cringely for the PBS miniseries Triumph of the Nerds. It was a 70-minute interview of which only 10 minutes were used in the documentary. The full footage had been thought lost forever, but after Mr. Jobs’s death, a VHS copy of the full interview was found. The unedited interview will be shown at select theaters around the country on November 16-17.

Steve Jobs, a frame from The Lost Interview

Steve Jobs, a frame from The Lost Interview

In 1995, Steve Jobs had already founded Apple Computers and been pushed out of it. He had not yet returned to the company he founded, not yet brought to market the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, or the iPad. But it was at that pivotal time that Mr. Cringely, who once worked for Mr. Jobs, was filming his documentary of the birth of the personal computer industry and Silicon Valley. For the miniseries, Triumph of the Nerds, he interviewed dozens of familiar faces from the early days of the technology boom such as Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Gordon Moore, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer, among others. Steve Jobs would, of course, be included in such a list.

It took a couple of attempts to get Mr. Jobs to sit for the interview, but what was recorded is apparently an honest discussion of his thoughts on being forced out of Apple and what he thought of the company, and of Microsoft, at the time. It was filmed at NeXT’s headquarters in Redwood City. The characteristics that would define Mr. Jobs later in his career, such as the primacy of design, the focus on users, and speaking his mind, are reportedly already on display.

A followup show was being made, Nerds 2.01: A Brief History of the Internet, and Mr. Cringely planned to use additional footage from the interview for that project. However, the master tapes were lost when they were shipped from London to Portland, Oregon. It was thought that the footage was gone forever.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, after Mr. Jobs’s death, that the director of the show, Paul Sen, found a VHS copy of the full interview in his London garage. The interview has been enhanced to improve the quality as much as possible for the big screen. A short opener and a few voice annotations are being added, but effectively the “movie” being shown is the full, unedited interview.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview will have a limited showing. It is only available in 19 Landmark Theatres around the country and only for a couple of days, November 16 & 17. (Palo Alto is an exception, with it being shown from November 16-22 there.) It’s a small window to see a unique look at the man credited with changing the world.