The Origins of “Think Different”

My sixth grade technology teacher changed my life.

He taught an early-morning elective class on computer repair in which we learned how to fix Macintosh computers. The curriculum covered how to take apart hard drives, how to re-install system software ("C is for CD and that's good enough for me" was the jingle to remember to hold the C key when starting a computer from system software), re-build desktops, run Disk Utility the right way, partition hard drives, and much more. In exchange for the free 7:00 AM class I had to periodically do maintenance and repair work on the school's computers. It was a hell of a deal: the skills I picked up continue to serve me well, and that class facilitated my burgeoning interest in software and the internet (with which I would soon become obsessed).

But the biggest gift from that class and teacher had nothing to do with the nitty gritty of computer repair. Rather, it was the introduction of a certain kind of life philosophy. He forced all of us to memorize the text of the Apple "Think Different" television campaign. We had to recite the ad back to him word-for-word in order to pass the class. It was a profoundly inspiring message.

On our last day, he wrote each of us a personal letter, continuing the theme of the advertisement. Mine read: "If you continue to work hard and do well, you can acquire the skills needed to change the world. With education one can make great scientific or technological breakthroughs, curb world hunger and child labor, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote peace, and have the power to bring about great change in the world. With education, you have the power to do nearly anything. If you don't change the world, who will?" Then, as a postscript, he added: "Be sure to back up your hard drive."

In the 10 years since, I have not forgotten a word from the advertisement and have recited it hundreds of times (no exaggeration!) to whoever will listen, in various venues. (And the short video series I did last year was called Think Different TV.)

For all these reasons, I was extremely intrigued to watch this six minute clip of a young Steve Jobs discussing the origins of the advertisement in the context of marketing, branding, and values. Highly recommended everyone in business.

(via TechCrunch)

7 comments on “The Origins of “Think Different”
  • Hello Ben,
    if your teacher is still alive -and if he isn’t, yes he did use a Mac 🙂 – please thank him for me. And for my students and clients whom I’m going to show the clip over and over again until they know the ad text by heart.
    And thank you for bringing it to our attention!

  • That Steve Jobs video is terrific, thanks for sharing. But it begs the follow up question – when do you want to market the specifics of your products versus the brand? A new company launching a product has to market how their product is better than the competition – no one will have heard of the company or product. But somewhere along the line the company will develop a reputation and no longer need to market the specs, tech enthusiasts will do it on their own as mentioned in Steve’s talk. The question is, when do you know you have reached that point?

  • You’ve done this before. Running around the house looking for your keys, passport, grabbing one more sun hat, shuffling through the trunk of the car, throwing out old hidden You’ve done this before. Running around the house looking for your keys, passport, grabbing one more sun hat, shuffling through the trunk of the car, throwing out old hidden diapers, making sure everyone has their shoes on, slam the doors, open the doors, lock the front door. “Drive, drive, drive!”. Your plane may take off without you. Parking lot, luggage, stroller.

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