After graduating from high school in 1972, Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, but dropped out after one semester, returning to California in 1974. There he became a member of the Homebrew Computer Club with his friend Steve Wozniak, and also worked at Atari, where he and Wozniak created a circuit board for the video game Breakout.
Founding of Apple Computer
On April 1st, 1976, Apple Computer was founded by Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. The three created fully assembled desktop computers which they called the Apple I. That product was followed a year later on June 5th, 1977 by the very successful Apple II series, which went on to sell nearly 6 million units by the time it was fully discontinued in 1993. The Apple II is considered by some to be the first successful home computer, though it was quickly passed by IBM-based PCs.
Of course, Jobs is best known for another product. The Macintosh computer and the Mac operating system project was created as a project similar to Apple’s Lisa. Jobs took control of the project early on, and eventually made it the focus of the entire company, although the Lisa and Apple II did continue to be sold.
The Mac’s graphical user interface metaphors and the Macintosh’s mouse were famously inspired (some would use a stronger word) by a visit to Xerox’s PARC labs. It was lauded by critics for its ease-of-use and design, particularly with regards to the use of proportional fonts and immediately recognizable iconography based on real-world objects. In January of 1984, the Macintosh line of computers was introduced to the public during Superbowl XVIII in a Ridley Scott directed commercial entitled “1984.” The commercial itself is now considered to be a landmark moment in advertising.
Exit from Apple, founding of NeXT and Pixar
Although the Mac was a revolution for the computer industry, Apple, Inc. suffered from internal divisions between CEO John Sculley and Steve Jobs. Weak Mac sales — part of an overall industry slump — exacerbated the conflicts between the two. Reports that Jobs had become difficult to work with became commonplace. On April 10th, 1985, a board meeting was held to convince Jobs to step back from management and become more of a product visionary. However, in the meeting, Jobs and Sculley began a two-day long power struggle over management of the company, with Jobs lobbying to have Sculley removed completely. Ultimately, Jobs lost. He remained Chairman of the company, but had no clear role. The conflicts continued until Sculley removed Jobs from Apple completely on May 31st, 1985.
Although it was a sad day for Apple and (the company itself would proceed to end up in a downward spiral that would continue until Jobs’ return), Steve himself eventually accepted the decision and later described himself as “grateful” for it. In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford, he said:
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
After his departure, Jobs wasted little time, founding NeXT, a place where Jobs could continue to execute on his vision of desktop computing outside the sphere of Apple’s drama and bureaucracy. The slick, jet-black workstations that NeXT built were paired with a new operating system — NeXTSTEP — which was based on the up-and-coming Mach kernel, highly advanced for its time.
The character traits that Jobs brought to NeXT from Apple were evident in nearly everything the company made: both the hardware and software were elegantly, painstakingly engineered both inside and out. (In fact, the desktop’s cases were made of magnesium, an unheard-of material for the era.) Like Apple, the company didn’t fear putting a premium price on its products, and it spent much of its time marketing to academic institutions. Though NeXT never caught on big with private companies, its distinctive black cube-shaped PCs could regularly be found in university research labs throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. CERN’s Tim Berners-Lee — the inventor of the World Wide Web — used a NeXTcube to create the world’s first web server.
NeXT wasn’t Jobs’ only post-Apple gig, though. In 1986, Steve Jobs bought what would become Pixar from LucasFilm for $10 million. Pixar wasn’t initially the movie-making powerhouse we know today, but instead created poorly selling computer systems. As Pixar began creating animated commercials, Jobs sold off the hardware division in 1990 to better focus Pixar on films. Under the direction of John Lasseter, the company eventually released Toy Story in 1995 to wild acclaim. It began a run of movies that were and are amongst the best animated movies of all time. Like Apple in later years, Pixar seemed to have a magic touch and only release products after relentless attention to detail. In 2006, Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion, making Jobs Disney’s single-largest shareholder at the time.
Return to Apple
In late 1996, Steve Jobs returned to Apple in a move which came as something of a surprise. After Apple’s efforts to develop its own next-generation operating system failed, the company had been widely reported to be interested in acquiring a company called Be and the BeOS, but at the last minute chose to acquire Jobs’ NeXT, Inc, instead.
With the acquisition, Jobs returned to the company he’d founded as a “special advisor” to then-CEO Gil Amelio — a role he quickly transcended with his enormous influence over the company. Just six months after Apple formally acquired NeXT, Amelio was forced out of the company and Jobs took over as the de facto leader. Jobs was officially named the “interim CEO” of Apple in September 1997, which caused some in the industry to jokingly dub him the “iCEO.”
“Interim CEO” title in hand, Jobs immediately began to make his mark on Apple and the industry.
After only two months on the job, Jobs gave a now-legendary presentation at Macworld Expo 1997, in which he introduced Bill Gates to jointly announce that Microsoft would invest $150m in Apple and commit to several new versions of Office for the Mac. The move sent shockwaves throughout the industry, with more to come.
Alongside designer Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs initiated a quick reversal of the company, tapping Ive to design what would become the iMac. Ive had previously been frustrated by his lack of influence at Apple, feeling that design took place too late in the process of product development to “truly innovate.” Luckily, he had the CEO’s ear from day one, and the partnership created some of the most iconic products of a generation.
The iMac was released in 1998 alongside an aggressive simplification of Apple’s Macintosh lineup. From a design standpoint, the iMac was a nearly complete reinvention of the personal computer, and returned Apple to a leadership position in the PC industry. “Apple leads when it expresses its vision through its products,” said Jobs during the iMac launch. The computer daringly did away with traditional PC components such as floppy disks and serial ports, while helping to popularize the USB standard and the concept of out-of-the-box internet connectivity. It was a bold move for a newly minted interim CEO, but it proved to be a huge success for Apple. The company lost $878 million in 1997, and earned $414 million in 1998.
Jobs then embarked on a plan to revitalize the aging Macintosh OS using technology he had built at NeXT. That software ultimately become Mac OS X. Jobs first showed off “Rhapsody,” an early version of OS X, in 1997, before he’d even assumed the position of interim CEO. In 1999 Apple launched OS X Server 1.0, which had radically new UNIX underpinnings, but offered a similar look and feel to Apple’s “classic” OS. OS X was released to consumers in early 2001. The operating system proved a foundation for Jobs’ vision of the future of computing, which would unfold over the next decade.
2001 marked a major transition for Apple. Not only did the company launch its first Apple Store, which would go on to become a worldwide chain of successful retail outlets, but Steve Jobs announced a new “digital hub” strategy for the company, which put the Mac at the center of a number of personal digital devices, like digital cameras, video cameras, MP3 players, and PDAs — none of which Apple produced at the time. All that changed in October, when Apple produced the iPod. The product, in its various iterations over the years, went on to sell over 300 million units, and redefined Apple from simply being a computer company to be a consumer electronics company — in 2007 Apple Computer, Inc. officially dropped the “Computer” from its name.
On the five year anniversary of the iPod, Steve Jobs gave an interview to Steven Levy which was published in Newsweek. In the piece Jobs told Levy, “We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.” Apple would deliver on that promise in 2007 when the company introduced a revolutionary new smartphone — dubbed the iPhone — to the world.
The iPhone and its operating system (iOS, which was originally known as iPhone OS) went on to revolutionize the mass market appeal of the smartphone, and fundamentally altered the mobile phone industry in everything from spectrum utilization to phone carrier plan pricing. The iPhone also created an entirely new market of third-party mobile applications, leading to a boom for software developers.
In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad at a special event in San Francisco. The device — which was based on iOS — essentially kick-started a new industry of touchscreen tablets. Both the iPad and its successor, iPad 2, have been remarkably successful. As with the original Mac, the iPad was Jobs’ attempt to re-think computing with a human focus. It set the stage for what Jobs called the “post-PC” era of personal computing.
Indeed, Jobs’ relentless drive to push Apple and industry forward continued until his very last product announcement as Apple’s CEO: a service called iCloud which would wirelessly keep the company’s devices in sync through the use of cloud storage technology. After kicking off the PC era with the Apple II, reinventing the PC with the iMac, and finally extending the PC’s status as a digital hub with the iPod, Jobs was ready to do away with the PC entirely.
Resignation from Apple
In mid-2004, Jobs told Apple employees that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and subsequently underwent a complex surgery (a pancreaticoduodenectomy, known as the “Whipple procedure”) to treat the disease. In the following years Jobs took several leaves of absence, including an absence in 2009 during which he underwent a liver transplant at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. During these leaves, Tim Cook temporarily ran Apple. On August 24th, 2011, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, saying,
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
Tim Cook succeeded Jobs as CEO of Apple.
Steve Jobs is survived by his wife Laurene Powell Jobs, his children Reed Paul, Erin Sienna, Eve, and a daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs from a previous relationship.
This article was originally published at ThisIsMyNext.com as Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.