Real Artists Ship

Steve Jobs? Andy Hertzfeld? Nicholas Callaway? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Developing and releasing a complicated product like a personal computer is an arduous task. Prominent business executive Steve Jobs employed the following adage to motivate the group designing the innovative Macintosh computer:

Real Artists Ship

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Andy Hertzfeld was a leading member of the Apple Macintosh development team which periodically held off-site retreats to mark progress and provide inspiration. The third occurred on January 27th and 28th, 1983 at the La Playa Hotel in Carmel, California. Hertzfeld asserted that Jobs employed the expression while addressing the team. Years later Hertzfeld started a website called folklore.org to share his memories, and the following excerpt is from the article titled “Credit Where Due”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Steve was fond of summarizing the themes of the day into a few succinct aphorisms, which he called “Quotations from Chairman Jobs”. The sayings from the previous retreat, held in September 1982, were “It’s Not Done Until It Ships”, “Don’t Compromise!” and “The Journey Is The Reward”. This time, they were “Real Artists Ship”, “It’s Better To Be A Pirate Than Join The Navy”, and “Mac in a Book by 1986”

The phrase “Quotations from Chairman Jobs” was wordplay based on the well-known book title “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1986 a message posted to the Usenet newsgroup net.comics mentioned the tagline of the movie “Howard the Duck” and the adage under examination: 2

You see, George Lucas, producer of “Howard the Duck” (coming this August to a theatre near you) and Steve Jobs, one of my fellow shareholders in Pixar, have joined forces to buy the entire City of San Rafael. We are going to take turns having “More adventure than humanly possible” and “Real artists ship” appear on the post marks.

The 1989 book “West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer” by Frank Rose included a description of the January 1983 speech by Steve Jobs: 3

So he stood at an easel at one end of a long, narrow conference room and unveiled the first of three epigrams:

Real artists ship.

They were all artists. They knew that. But real artists don’t hang on to their creations. Real artists ship. Matisse shipped. Picasso shipped. They were going to ship too.

In 1992 “The New York Times” reported that book publisher Nicholas Callaway employed the adage: 4

Callaway likes to quote a dictum attributed to Apple Computer’s founder, Steven P. Jobs: “Real artists ship.” Abandoning the company’s leisurely approach to publishing, Callaway plans to put out six books this fall.

In conclusion, Steve Jobs popularized the expression “Real Artists Ship” by using it in a speech by 1983 according to the testimony of Andy Hertzfeld. Jobs also probably created the saying. Over the years it has been adopted by other business people and motivational authors.

Image Notes: Picture of Macintosh Computer from StockSnap at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Benjamin Barrett who wrote a mailing list message about the verb “to ship” with the sense “to release” a product. This led QI to reactivate the exploration of this quotation and to create this article.)

Notes:

  1. Website: Folklore.org, Article title: Credit Where Due, Article author: Andy Hertzfeld, Date of third retreat was January 27th and 28th, 1983, Timestamp of first comment on website article: April 18, 2004 03:26:32, Website description: “web site devoted to collective historical storytelling” with a focus on Apple computer company. (Accessed folklore.org on October 13, 2018) link
  2. 1986 February 26, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: net.comics, From: Craig Good: Pixar Multiplication Division @pixar, Subject: Re: Pixar. (Google Groups Search; Accessed October 13, 2018) link
  3. 1989, West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer by Frank Rose, Part 1: Being a Pirate, Chapter 3: The Dream, Quote Page 55, Penguin Group of Viking Penguin, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1992 October 19, New York Times, Edging Into Madonna’s Limelight by Eben Shapiro, Quote Page D6, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)