Reality Distortion Field

Steve Jobs by Pat Linse

Reality distortion field (RDF) is a term coined by Bud Tribble (who still works at Apple) at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs’ charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Mac project. Tribble claimed that the term came from ‘Star Trek.’ Later the term has also been used to refer to perceptions of his keynote speeches (or ‘Stevenotes’) by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products.

The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld (member of the original Apple team) to be Steve Jobs’ ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement, and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. While RDF has been criticized as anti-reality, those close to Jobs have also illustrated numerous instances in which creating the sense that the seemingly impossible was possible led to the impossible being accomplished. Similarly, the optimism which Jobs sowed in those around him contributed to the loyalty of his colleagues and fans.

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