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A look back at Steve Jobs' most colorful keynote moments

Jason Snell | June 30, 2016
During a handful of keynote presentations, Jobs... lost his cool a little bit on stage, solidifying them in Apple's keynote hall of fame. Here, Jason Snell remembers two such moments.

Demos make a keynote dull, but the 2001 New York keynote went off a cliff when Apple's Jon Rubenstein took seemingly forever ("ten minutes... feels like about nine minutes too many," wrote Michaels) to make a labored explanation of the "megahertz myth"-that the PowerPC processors driving Macs could do more work than Intel processors running at the same speed. Even the pumped-up crowd of Apple fans-keep in mind, Macworld Expo keynotes weren't populated by press types or developers, but regular ticket-buying members of the public-were bored. 

Or as Michaels summed it up, "You'd have to go back to Gil Amelio's 1997 San Francisco Macworld Expo address... to find a keynote that failed to bowl over the crowd the way this year's installment did." Maybe it's all for the best that all we remember of it is Steve throwing a camera. 

Everyone stop working

Now let's move forward to 2010, and the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Steve Jobs is showing off the iPhone 4 and the fourth edition of the iPhone software, now dubbed iOS 4. But his demos on his iPhone aren't working, because the iPhone can't connect to a Wi-Fi network properly.

Steve implores everyone in the room to get off of the Wi-Fi, leading me to comment, "I actually think that might be the biggest demo failure in recent Apple memory. Not since Steve threw that digital camera....". (See? That damned digital camera.) 

steve jobs ios4


Twenty minutes later, it's time for more demos, and the Wi-Fi is still messed up. This time, Steve informs the crowd that there are 570 Wi-Fi base stations operating in the room. Back in those days, all the press and developers used cellular hotspots to get on the Internet. This was because for a very long time, Apple resisted the idea of live coverage of keynotes. "No blogging," I was told more than once when I entered an event. (I wasn't blogging-I relayed information back to the office so that a news story could be updated live. Totally different.) 

In this keynote, Jobs was reaping what Apple's policy had sowed: Everyone brought their own Wi-Fi based tethering product, and the entire room was swamped. So Jobs demanded that everyone turn off their devices or he wouldn't be able to do his demos. More chillingly, he demanded that everyone look at their neighbors and investigate if they were complying.

"Steve is telling us to shut off our MiFi, ain't gonna happen, Steve," I wrote in the Macworld live blog. I sat on my MiFi, lowered the brightness on my laptop's screen, and kept on doing my job, as did Dan Moren beside me.


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