Once Upon a Time, Long Before the iPad, Steve Jobs Rode a BMW Motorcycle

Two years before the Macintosh was unveiled, Apple’s (s aapl) then-and-future CEO was photographed by Charles O’Rear for a National Geographic Magazine feature on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, riding a 1966 BMW R60/2 motorcycle.

27 years old, with longish hair (no helmet), wearing tan boots and a light-colored shirt with sleeves rolled back (no black turtleneck), Jobs looks like he’s having the time of his life riding the two-wheel Bimmer in San Francisco freelancer Moira Johnston’s feature “High Tech, High Risk, and High Life in Silicon Valley,” published in the magazine’s October 1982 issue.

However, notwithstanding his (excellent) taste in bikes, Steve’s stated ambition, when interviewed by Johnston over herb tea at a vegetarian restaurant, was modestly at the time to become “the Volkswagen” of the microcomputer sector rather than its BMW — which became a popular automotive analogy with Apple-watching commentators later on — although he emphasizes that “We’d rather call the Apple a personal than a home computer.”

The article notes that the Apple computer “has inspired a dedicated cult of hard-core enthusiasts who trade new uses for the computer in the columns of Apple magazines” and that Jobs had “become a potent role model for a new breed of bright kids who are writing and selling software programs and, with their arcane computer skills, gaining the prestige formerly tasted only by the high-school football team.”

Johnston also reports that besides the BMW two-wheeler, Jobs, already holding $100 million worth of Apple stock, also owned “the requisite Mercedes,” but that “success seems not to have spoiled the first folk hero of the computer age,” who still preferred according to an unnamed friend quoted, “to drive his motorcycle to my place, sit around and drink wine, and talk about what we’re going to do when we grow up.”

Of more than passing interest is that not unlike Apple’s performance through the current economic recession, the company seemed to be weathering a late ’82 downturn the microchip sector rather well, with revenues soaring 81 percent year-over-year and Apple occupying 22 buildings in Silicon Valley as well as having plants in Texas, Singapore, and Ireland.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Read here for a scan and transcript, with photos, of the entire National Geographic article.

A tip of the hat to Modern Mechanix for posting the article scan and to Peter Orosz of jalopnik.com for drawing my attention to this fascinating snippet of history.