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Reality distortion field

Reality distortion field is a term first used by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs's charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project.[1] Tribble said that the term came from Star Trek,[1] where in the Menagerie episode, it was used to describe how the aliens created their own new world through mental force. In chapter three of Steve Jobs, biographer Walter Isaacson states that around 1972, while Jobs was attending Reed College, Robert Friedland "taught Steve the reality distortion field."

Description and usesEdit

The reality distortion field was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs's ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. It 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. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate others' ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.[1]

The term has been used to refer to Jobs's keynote speeches ("Stevenotes") by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products.[2], and by Apple's competitors in criticisms of Apple. On Research In Motion's official BlackBerry blog, Jim Balsillie introduced a blog post by saying "For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field".[3]

The term has extended in industry to other managers and leaders who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the market. It also has been used with regard to hype for products that are not necessarily connected with any one person.[4]Bill Clinton's charisma has been called a reality distortion field.[5] The chess champion Bobby Fischer was said to have a "Fischer aura" surrounding him that disoriented Boris Spassky and other opponents.[6] The term has been associated with Donald Trump's approach to running his 2016 campaign for United States President and his presidency.[7] Financial Times used the term when describing Elon Musk.[8]

Jobs's reality distortion field was parodied in Dilbert: Dilbert built a functioning reality distortion field emitter, which is used during Dogbert's keynote speech.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Hertzfeld, Andy (February 1981). "Reality Distortion Field".
  2. ^ Dudrow, Andrea (October 16, 2000). "Notes from the Epicenter: Exploring the Reality Distortion Field". CreativePro.
  3. ^ "RIM Responds to Apple's 'Distortion Field'". Inside BlackBerry. October 19, 2010.
  4. ^ "The Ajax Reality Distortion Field". April 12, 2005. Archived from the original on June 18, 2010.
  5. ^ Ferriss, Tim (November 21, 2010). "How It Works: Clinton's "Reality Distortion Field" Charisma".
  6. ^ Darrach, Brad (1972-08-11). "Bobby is Not a Nasty Kid". Life. p. 40. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  7. ^ O'Brien, Timothy L. (2016-06-16). "A Peek Inside Trump's Smoke and Mirrors Tour". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  8. ^ Richard Waters. Elon Musk, billionaire tech idealist and space entrepreneur. Financial Times.
  9. ^ "Dilbert comic strip for 2010-09-23". The official Dilbert comic strips archive.