Steve Jobs’ Long-Time Liberal Arts Focus

Steve Jobs Introducing the iPad

Steve Jobs Introducing the iPad in 2010

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, he famously invoked the idea of liberal arts, saying:

“The reason that Apple is able to create products like iPad is because we always try to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both.”

So it was interesting to hear the 1996 interview he did with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air (replayed in honour of his passing), where the idea of liberal arts features so strongly.

“In my perspective … science and computer science is a liberal art, it’s something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life. It’s not something that should be relegated to 5 percent of the population over in the corner. It’s something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have mastery of to some extent, and that’s how we viewed computation and these computation devices.”


“I think our major contribution [to computing] was in bringing a liberal arts point of view to the use of computers. If you really look at the ease of use of the Macintosh, the driving motivation behind that was to bring not only ease of use to people — so that many, many more people could use computers for nontraditional things at that time — but it was to bring beautiful fonts and typography to people, it was to bring graphics to people … so that they could see beautiful photographs, or pictures, or artwork, et cetera … to help them communicate. … Our goal was to bring a liberal arts perspective and a liberal arts audience to what had traditionally been a very geeky technology and a very geeky audience.”

Interesting how the liberal arts orientation was something he carried with him for decades.

Also interesting how he had to fight for the mouse, and how a bottom-up approach for ideas was encouraged.

This talk was recorded while he was still at NeXT, although much of the discussion covers Apple.  He was yet to return to the company and start the long process of turning it around.

Worth a listen, which you can do here:

[audio:|titles=NPR Fresh Air: Steve Jobs Interviewed in 1996 by Terry Gross]

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 Photo credit: mattbuchanan


About Andrew Einspruch

Co-founder of Wild Pure Heart Productions and the Deep Peace Trust, I'm an animal-loving, vegan, author and filmmaker, who loves nothing more than an engrossingly entertaining film or book.