Dr Land was saying: “I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.”
And Steve said: “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.” He said if I asked someone who had only used a personal calculator what a Macintosh should be like they couldn’t have told me. There was no way to do consumer research on it so I had to go and create it and then show it to people and say now what do you think?”
Both of them had this ability to not invent products, but discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed — it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them. The Polaroid camera always existed and the Macintosh always existed — it’s a matter of discovery. Steve had huge admiration for Dr. Land. He was fascinated by that trip.
[A]ll serendipity for Sculley who was just along for the ride. He just happened to luck out. And, there was no pilgrimage… no planned meeting with Dr. Land. I was working for Steve as Design Director for the Macintosh project and we were in Boston and I asked Steve if he’d like to meet Dr. Land, whom I had worked with before Apple. I called Dr. Land and he agreed to meet Steve. We arrived to find a BBC documentary film crew there. Dr. Land excused them and we began a 3 hour visit which included a glimpse into color experiments that were in his lab, to his personal office and an amazing review of some of his personal collection of photographs. The memorable part of this was that Steve was meeting someone who legitimately could be, almost uniquely, a mentor for him. And, clearly, they shared an awareness of the importance of good design as it contributed not only to their products, but to their corporate culture as well.
The odds Land faced in conceiving, building, and shipping not only an instant camera but the chemical and manufacturing processes required for such a product are staggering – and not far off at all from the feat of the first Macintosh. It's a riveting story.
"Since 1947, Edwin Land and Polaroid have pursued a central concept, one single thread: the removal of the barriers between a photographer and a subject."
The ubiquity of the cell phone camera has delivered on Land's goal in a way unguessed at when the SX-70 came out.
Unless he passed on to someone his vision for what he sees as the future of the iPhone or communications in general, I think Apple will begin to flounder again and eventually fade off into history.
And to be honest, I think that something similar is more likely what will happen to Apple. Technological changes are coming that will make the Jobs/Apple approach less lucrative than it has been, and I think they'll probably arrive before Apple really starts to drift from that approach and those standards. If and when that does happen, people will definitely talk about how Jobs maybe could have turned things round, but I wouldn't have bet on it. Like Land, I think Jobs had one big idea and one strategy when it came to computers and consumer electronics, and all his successes in those areas came largely from his skill at executing that one plan. And like Land, I don't think he could have simply pulled out a new approach - and really, a new set of values and talents - in response to a change in circumstances.
This reminds me a bit of Nikola Tesla's autobiography. He had an unbelievable ability to build mental models of mechanical and electrical things, and he said that they always worked in real life exactly the way he had envisioned them. His mental models were so intense that he would sometimes forget that other people couldn't see them. It's a fascinating, brief read.