Steve Jobs envisioned the App Store in 1983


Steve Jobs on the cover of Time magazine in 1982.
Steve Jobs on the cover of Time magazine in 1982.
Photo: Time magazine

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a visionary. That’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but in Jobs’ case we have solid evidence.

Speaking at a conference in the early 1980s, a decade before the Internet became a household name, he described something we do everyday: buy software online.

Jobs was speaking at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. He’s 28 years old, and a little computer called the Macintosh was still a year in the future.

Steve Jobs’ vision of the App Store

At this time, all software was distributed on 5.25-inch floppy drives. This is a slow and expensive method.  The CEO of Apple laid out his vision for a replacement: online software shopping. He did so in terms people people in 1983 could understand. 

“Software is information, and information is expressed with a bunch of ones and zeros. Where we’ll be going in translating this stuff electronically on the phone lines. When we want to buy a piece of software we’ll take our ones and zeros … and go directly from computer to computer,” is his description.

Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss this accomplishment. But at the time Jobs’ is speaking, the Internet is something used only by the military. America Online wouldn’t even be founded for two more years. The idea of online shopping is more than a decade away. But not to Steve Jobs.

Hear Apple’s co-founder describe this idea in his own words:

Not a perfect vision

During his speech, Jobs emphasized that one of the advantages of online software shopping would be to allow users to try applications before they buy it.

It’s ironic that it took until 2018 for Apple to fully implement this feature in the iOS app store. It wasn’t until this year’s WWDC that the company announced that all developers are allowed to offer their iPhone/iPad apps for a time-limited trial. Previously, this was only allowed with subscription services.


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