We were saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs. The co-creator and face of Apple for years had health issues starting with pancreatic cancer in 2003. It was discovered that it was a very rare form of the disease, one that was actually treatable. He recovered from that, but five years later had to undergo a liver transplant. Earlier this year he had taken a leave of absence in January, come back, then retired from daily operations at Apple on August 24th, putting Tim Cook permanently at the helm of Apple.
Born on February 24, 1955, his parents put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs and named Steven Paul Jobs. Clara was an accountant and Paul was retired from the Coast Guard and working as a machinist. Steve and Paul often worked on electronic projects in the garage, and Steve learned to take apart and put together electronics. That same garage would serve as the place where Apple Computer was born.
Steve was a mischievous youth and a prankster. His fourth grade teacher was rumored to have bribed him to study. But he tested so well that at one point, school administrators suggested he skip ahead to high school. His parents declined.
When he was in high school, he liked to hang out at Hewlett-Packard. There he met and befriended Steve Wozniak, a gifted engineer. Jobs enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Lacking direction, he dropped out after six months, then spent the next 18 months dropping in on classes, including one on calligraphy. His love of typography would later affect the computer world with the Macintosh.
After his college experience, Jobs worked as a game designer at Atari in 1974. He saved his money from this job for several months, then went on a spiritual trip to India. He became a Buddhist and experimented with psychedelic drugs while he was there.
In 1976, he returned to Atari, and he and Wozniak started Apple Computer. They sold possessions (Jobs’ Volkswagen Bus and Wozniak’s scientific calculator) to create the Apple I, a computer that was merely a circuit board. Wozniak was a genius at simplifying electronics, using the fewest number of chips possible, making their computer simple and powerful. They sold enough Apple I computers to make $774,000. The Apple II, a fully built computer, would make them $139 million.
In 1980, Apple became publicly traded and raised $1.2 billion on the first day of trading. Apple hired John Sculley of Coca Cola to be the President. In 1984, Apple released the first Macintosh computer, the first computer to have a graphical user interface. A power struggle started between Sculley and Jobs, ousting Jobs from the company he had co-founded. Humiliated and sad, but driven, Jobs started NeXT, a new computer company making really powerful, expensive computers. He also bought a new computer animation company from George Lucas, which he eventually renamed Pixar. Pixar became highly successful, but NeXT was failing. Apple bought NeXT in 1997 for $429 million. Jobs returned to Apple as it’s new CEO for $1 a year. Yes, one dollar.
He reinvented the company, creating products we all know, like the iMac and iPod. His determination and vision saw the true potential of many technologies, packaging them up in simple, elegant devices. His determination and drive set the standard for Apple. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but they made it very easy to use with the iPod and iTunes software. Jobs’ charisma in presenting the new devices made them “gotta have” items and made the Apple brand desirable.
For his dedication and for creating a company that produces products that we all use and love, we owe a lot to Mr. Jobs. Without him, computers may not have proportionally spaced fonts, easy-to-use software and interfaces, nor might we have had computers we can carry in our pockets (iPhones and iPods), or Toy Story.