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专栏 - 苹果2_0

尘封28年的视频揭示乔布斯最大错误

Philip Elmer-DeWitt 2016年02月25日

苹果(Apple)公司内部流传着一个老笑话,那就是史蒂夫·乔布斯周围是一片“现实扭曲力场”:你离他太近的话,就会相信他所说的话。苹果的数百万用户中已经有不少成了该公司的“信徒”,而很多苹果投资者也赚得盆满钵满。不过,Elmer-DeWitt认为,在报道苹果公司时有点怀疑精神不是坏事。听他的应该没错。要知道,他自从1982年就开始报道苹果、观察史蒂夫·乔布斯经营该公司。
“我们所有人都忽略了一点:这台机器在市场上几乎没有任何机会能获得成功。NeXT电脑的设计初衷根本站不住脚,那些异地会议上设立的目标也完全失败了……”

近日,人们在研究艾伦•索金的电影《乔布斯》的过程中,找到了一段尘封28年的老视频。

这段老视频是从两个老式录影带拷贝过来的,除了录影带的拥有者,没人知道它们的存在。这段视频基本不具有任何纪录片的制作效果。它太长了(2.5小时),制作太粗糙,而且整体色调太阴暗。但研究计算机历史的人却深知它的价值:它是在同时期的媒体报道之外,唯一一段记录了1988年NeXT电脑首发庆典盛况的视频影像。

此前,PBS电视台摄制的纪录片——《企业家们》(The Entrepreneurs)——是乔布斯在NeXT公司那几年的唯一视频记录,其中有一段乔布斯参加一次异地会议的镜头,是乔布斯被排挤出苹果公司(Apple)不久之后的一次会议上拍摄的。

我把这两段视频翻来覆去地看了好几遍,最让我震惊的是,即便在当时看来,NeXT电脑也是很明显注定要失败的。

在1985年的那次异地会议中,总是很有镜头感的乔布斯正站在一块白板前,试图为他的新公司设定优先要务:我们是要生产一款技术卓越的机器,还是要满足3000美元的价格点,还是要赶在1987年以前推出新产品?

以上三个目标,NeXT如果能满足其中的两个,就会大获成功。但是直到1989年,NeXT电脑才有限地发布了新品,而且起价高达6500美元——还不包含一个价值2000美元的打印机,和一个2000美元的外接硬盘。

《财富》杂志前编辑布兰特•施兰德也参加了那晚在旧金山戴维斯音乐厅举办的正式发布会。在他撰写的文章中,他称NeXT电脑是“夺目”的,而且“相对来说不算贵”。近30年后,他在与里克•特策利合著的《成为乔布斯》(Becoming Steve Jobs)一书中回忆了那段历史,其中关于NeXT的章节,可以说最好地解释了乔布斯犯了什么错,以及他从这段错误中学到了什么。

施兰德写道:“事实上,我们所有人都忽略了一点:这台机器在市场上几乎没有任何机会能获得成功。NeXT电脑的设计初衷根本站不住脚,那些异地会议上设立的目标也完全失败了……”

“游戏已经结束了,但我们几乎没有人意识到。”

在乔布斯放弃NeXT电脑、专注于将NeXT的创新软件出售之前,NeXT电脑只生产了大约5万台左右。

NeXT发布后,根据乔布斯最初的设想,NeXT主要是通过大学合作项目在高校中销售。因为NeXT定价过高,普通高校又往往拿不出足够的资金。乔布斯就常常通过大幅度的折扣,甚至是赠与的方式,将NeXT电脑送进校园。

后来,免费赠送的例子越来越多,以至于NeXT自己的销售人员都经常开这样的玩笑:

“提问:我们常说的助高校一臂之力,究竟是什么意思?”

“回答:就是高校一伸出手臂,我们就免费捐赠。”

教育市场销售乏力,乔布斯不得不改换思路。1989年3月,NeXT与商业地带(Businessland)签署协议,由商业地带的连锁零售店代销NeXT电脑。这个策略也不成功,连锁店在一年内只能卖出几百台电脑。

同时,NeXT电脑的质量也是个问题。乔布斯口中“领先5年”的未来科技在真正的用户手里成了笑话。几乎所有用户都抱怨NeXT性能不如Sun的工作站,抱怨NeXT早期产品没有彩色输出,磁盘驱动器的配置太低等。乔布斯和他的NeXT团队不断改进产品,却总也无法达到“领先5年”的标准。

但是,这台电脑确实对后世产生了深远影响,尤其是英国计算机科学家、“万维网之父”蒂姆•伯纳斯•李就是用这样一台电脑设计出了万维网。

另外,热门游戏《毁灭战士》(Doom)、《毁灭战士II》(Doom II)和《雷神之锤》(Quake)最早也是在NeXT电脑上设计出来的。NeXT的一些代码可能一直延续到了今天。1996年,乔布斯将NeXT操作系统卖给了苹果公司,同时这笔交易也使他重返苹果。NeXT的面向对象型的软件技术也成为了苹果后来的OS X平台的基础。

这段尘封达28年之久的视频,之所以能够得到修复并公开,得益于塔夫茨大学(Tufts University)的新生汤姆•弗里克。他通过电子邮件向《财富》杂志描述了自己的修复过程:

“这次活动的现场照明不是很理想,所有亮光和阴影部分都看不清楚。而且整段视频的时间码是叠加的。最糟糕的是,这两张录像带是用录过快艇影像的旧录像带重拍的,有一部分缺失了,还有一些部分是重复的。在时间码的帮助下,我删除了无用和重复的部分,然后将两张录像带的内容拼接在一起,并且对色彩进行了修正,降低了过分渲染的效果。”

“在视频中,乔布斯还向观众展示了一段名叫‘制造机器的机器’的视频,这是一段关于NeXT的革命性工厂的纪录短片。这段视频本来也从录像带中缺失了,但是我找到了一个版本,并且把它拼接进来。最后我给整段音频降了噪,把VHS录像带中常有的噪音减小了。”(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Until the video below was discovered by researchers working on Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs, the only known recording of Jobs from his NeXT years was a PBS documentary called The Entrepreneurs that included footage from a 1985 offsite meeting shot shortly after Jobs was pushed out of Apple.

The new video—re-created out of a pair of VHS tapes only their owner knew existed—has none of the documentary’s production values. It’s too long (2.5 hours), too raw, and way too dark. But it will be treasured by computer historians for what it is: The only record, outside of contemporaneous journalists’ reports, of the gala unveiling of the NeXT computer in 1988.

What struck me, watching the two videos back to back, is how clear it should have been that the machine was doomed.

In the 1985 offsite, Jobs—always aware of the camera—is seen at a whiteboard trying to set the new company’s priorities: Was it more important to create a machine with great technology, meet a $3,000 price point, or have it ready by 1987?

Had NeXT met even two of those goals, it might have been a hit. But it wasn’t ready for limited release until 1989 and it started at $6,500—not including a $2,000 printer and a $2,000 external hard drive.

Former Fortune editor Brent Schlender, who attended the black-tie gala at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, called the NeXT “dazzling” and “relatively inexpensive” in a front-page article in theWall Street Journal. He revisited the experience nearly three decades later in Becoming Steve Jobs(2015), co-written by Rick Tetzeli, whose chapter on NeXT is the best account in print of what Jobs did wrong and what he learned from his mistakes.

“The truth that all of us missed was that this was a machine that had virtually no chance to succeed in the market,” Schlender writes. “The principles on which NeXT had been based were in tatters, the goals of those long-gone offsite meeting trashed…

“The game was already over, but few of us knew it.”

Only some 50,000 NeXT computers were built before Jobs abandoned his beloved magnesium cube and concentrated on selling NeXT’s innovative software.

But the computer did manage to make a dent in the universe, most famously when Tim Berners-Lee used one to design the World Wide Web.

The games Doom, Doom II, and Quake were also designed on NeXT machines. Some of its code probably still lives on today. Jobs sold NeXT’s operating system to Apple in the 1996 deal that brought him back to the company, and NeXT’s object-oriented software technology became the foundation on which OS X was built.

Tom Frikker, the Tufts University freshman who restored the 28-year-old video for public release, described the process in an e-mail to Fortune:

“The stage lighting at the event was not optimal; all of the highlights and shadows were blown out. A timecode had been superimposed over the whole video. Worst of all, the tapes had been recorded over a speedboat video, with some parts missing and others repeated. After deleting the ‘garbage’ and removing duplicate sections with help from the timecode, I spliced the two tapes together and worked on color correction, lessing the over-saturated effect present in the stage scenes.”

“Part way through the presentation, Steve showed the audience a video called ‘The Machine to build the Machines’, a short documentary on NeXT’s revolutionary factory. This video was missing from the tape, but I was able to locate a version and splice it in. Finally, all of the audio was cleaned, with most of the ever-present VHS hum reduced.”

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