Derided by some, held up as a technological savior by others, Steve Jobs helped launch a wave of personal computer use that has redefined the world’s economy and the way people interact, and he started it all from the comfort of his parents’ garage.
Steve Jobs’ Early Days
Steve Jobs was born in 1955 to University of Wisconsin graduate students Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali, a Syrian Muslim immigrant. Though the two would later marry (and have a daughter, novelist Mona Simpson), they were unmarried at the time due to Schieble’s parents objecting to the relationship. Schieble moved to San Francisco to give birth to Steve and give him up for adoption.
Steve was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a machinist father and an accountant mother, and raise in the pocket of northern California now known as Silicon Valley. Steve was quickly drawn to the wealth of technology and innovation that surrounded him, going to work for Hewlett-Packard on summer breaks during high school.
There he met a college dropout named Stephen Wozniak, who worked as an engineer, but was drawn to creating electronic gadgets. The two would meet again after Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Oregon, when they both worked as game designers for Atari.
Far from content with following another’s path, Jobs proposed that Wozniak help him build a personal computer of his own, providing a hands-on alternative to the massive machines that had defined the field until then.
Jobs’ Career at Apple
Joined by Ronald Wayne, Jobs and Wozniak sold set up shop in Job’s parents’ garage, producing the first computer in 1976 under the name Apple I. The first single-board computer with onboard read-only memory (ROM), the Apple I was the company’s inaugural offering, but was painfully elementary compared to what would come.
In the years that followed, Jobs and Wozniak continued to produce more and more powerful computers, encouraging users to design their own programs on the new, easy-to-use system.
It was not until 1983 that Jobs made Apple into a global brand. Introduced to the public as a personal computer that even the technologically illiterate could use with ease, the Lisa and the less powerful Macintosh were Jobs’ effort to bring the computer to the masses.
Flush with confidence and eager to pursue a dream of making computers a widely available consumer good instead of a tool used only by programmers and engineers, Jobs announced the new product with a degree of drama and fanfare that quickly became his calling card.
However, Jobs’ bravado and showmanship, evidenced in a now legendary Super Bowl ad announcing the new computer, quickly wore thin with the new CEO he had brought in to help the company grow—former Pepsi head John Sculley.
Despite the stratospheric rise of Jobs and Apple in the mid-1980s, Sculley soon found reason to push Jobs out of the company he had created, sending him packing at the age of 30. Intent on continuing his creative streak, Jobs quickly purchased the animation arm of Lucas Film and launched an effort to create the ultimate in educational computers.
While the education endeavor was well received by the industry, if not profitable or ultimately very successful, it was Jobs’ foray into film that would bring him back to life on the global scale. After several years of public isolation, Jobs renamed his new animation firm Pixar and released the movie “Toy Story,” putting him back at the fore of innovation and creativity.
In addition to earning him hundreds of millions when the company was finally sold to Disney, Jobs’ hand at Pixar earned him an invitation to return to an ailing Apple as a consultant, and replace the very man who had ousted him just a year later.
Back at the helm of Apple in 1996, Jobs quickly resolved a long-running feud with Microsoft, striking up a programming agreement with his rivals and setting about creating a line of products meant for the broadest audience possible.
Introducing the iMac in 1998, Jobs reinvigorated Apple by stressing design and accessibility, with tools, applications and a style that seemed revolutionary compared to older generations.
In 2001, Jobs introduced the company’s contribution to the personal music device market with the iPod, which not only proved to be incredibly successful, but also transformed Apple into a media company rather than just a computer company.
Smaller players, more powerful computers and all-in-one phones followed, all introduced with Jobs’ trademark secrecy and showmanship. Although there was debate surrounding how much input Jobs had in the actual design of Apple’s line, there was little disagreement that he had become pivotal to how the products were branded and sold.
Steve Jobs on Amazon.com
- “Apple Confidential 2.0,” by Owen Linzmayer
- “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,” by Alan Deutschman
- “Revolution in the Valley–The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” by Andy Hertzfeld
- “Pirates of Silicon Valley (DVD)”
Jobs suffered numerous health ailments beginning in 2004, when a cancerous tumor was discovered in his pancreas and removed surgically. He has lost a significant amount of weight and has looked unhealthy during several public appearances, causing further speculation about his health.
The impact on his health problems on Jobs' outlook were evident in his memorable commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005.
In January 2009, soon announcing that he would not be able to appear at the annual Macworld conference, Jobs announced that he would be stepping down from Apple for a six-month medical sabbatical.
Always known for his secrecy, Jobs allowed little information to be released about his health until he returned to Apple in 2009, announcing that he had received a liver transplant. Soon after his return, Apple announced the newest product in their cutting edge line of personal computers, the iPad.
Steven Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011. His step-sister, Mona Simpson, delivered a eulogy at his memorial service that was published in The New York Times. She reported that his final words were, "OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."
Sources in this Story
- The Daily Telegraph: Steve Jobs: adopted child who never met his biological father
- Encyclopedia.com (International Directory of Business Biographies): Steven Paul Jobs
- The Denver Post: Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc.
- MIT: Inventor of the Week: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak
- CNET: Fall and rise of Steve Jobs
- BusinessWeek: Steve Jobs’ Magic Kingdom
- CNNMoney: Apple’s remarkable comeback story
- Rolling Stone: The Steve Jobs Interview
- PC World: Steve Jobs: Spilling his Secrets Soon?
- YouTube: Commencent Speech, Stanford University, 2005
- The New York Times: Apple’s Visionary Redefined Digital Age
- The New York Times: A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs