Technology News Blog

Apple co-founder, Chairman Steve Jobs dies

Today in Tech

Apple co-founder and Chairman Steve Jobs died today. He was
56.

Jobs had been suffering from various health issues following the
seven-year anniversary of his surgery for a rare form of pancreatic
cancer in August 2004. Apple announced in January that he would be
taking an indeterminate medical leave of absence, with Jobs then
stepping down from his role as CEO in late August.

Jobs had undergone a liver transplant in April 2009 during an earlier
planned six-month leave of absence. He returned to work for a year and
a half before his health forced him to take more time off. He told his
employees in August, "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."

One of the most legendary businessmen in American history, Jobs turned
three separate industries on their head in the 35 (April 1, 1976)
years he was involved in the technology industry.

Personal computing was invented with the launch of the Apple II in
1977. Legal digital music recordings were brought into the mainstream
with the iPod and iTunes in the early 2000s, and mobile phones were
never the same after the 2007 debut of the iPhone. Jobs played an
instrumental role in the development of all three, and managed to find
time to transform the art of computer-generated movie-making on the
side.

The invention of the iPad in 2010, a touch-screen tablet computer his
competitors flocked to reproduce, was the capstone of his career as a
technologist. A conceptual hybrid of a touch-screen iPod and a slate
computer, the 10-inch mobile device was Jobs' vision for a more
personal computing device.

Jobs was considered brilliant yet brash. He valued elegance in design
yet was almost never seen in public wearing anything but a black mock
turtleneck, blue jeans, and a few days worth of stubble. A master
salesman who considered himself an artist at heart, Jobs inspired both
reverence and fear in those who worked for him and against him, and
was adored by an army of loyal Apple customers who almost saw him as
superhuman.

Jobs was born in San Francisco in 1955 to young parents who gave him
up for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs gave him his name, and moved out
of the city in 1960 to the Santa Clara Valley, later to be known as
Silicon Valley. Jobs grew up in Mountain View and Cupertino, where
Apple's headquarters is located.

He attended Reed College in Oregon for a year but dropped out,
although he sat in on some classes that interested him, such as
calligraphy. After a brief stint at Atari working on video games, he
spent time backpacking around India, furthering teenage experiments
with psychedelic drugs and developing an interest in Buddhism, all of
which would shape his work at Apple.

Back in California, Jobs' friend Steve Wozniak was learning the skills
that would change both their lives. When Jobs discovered that Wozniak
had been assembling relatively (for the time) small computers, he
struck a partnership, and Apple Computer was founded in 1976 in the
usual Silicon Valley fashion: setting up shop in the garage of one of
the founder's parents.

Wozniak handled the technical end, creating the Apple I, while Jobs
ran sales and distribution. The company sold a few hundred Apple Is,
but found much greater success with the Apple II, which put the
company on the map and is largely credited as having proven that
regular people wanted computers.

It also made Jobs and Wozniak rich. Apple went public in 1980, and
Jobs was well on his way to becoming one of the first tech industry
celebrities, earning a reputation for brilliance, arrogance, and the
sheer force of his will and persuasion, often jokingly referred to as
his "reality-distortion field."

The debut of the Macintosh in 1984 left no doubt that Apple was a
serious player in the computer industry, but Jobs only had a little
more than a year left at the company he founded when the Mac was
released in January 1984.

By 1985 Apple CEO John Sculley--who Jobs had convinced to leave Pepsi
in 1983 and run Apple with the legendary line, "Do you want to spend
the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to
change the world?"--had developed his own ideas for the future of the
company, and they differed from Jobs'. He removed Jobs from his
position leading the Macintosh team, and Apple's board backed Sculley.

Jobs resigned from the company, later telling an audience of Stanford
University graduates "what had been the focus of my entire adult life
was gone, and it was devastating." He would get the last laugh.

He went on to found NeXT, which set about making the next computer in
Jobs' eyes. NeXT was never the commercial success that Apple was, but
during those years, Jobs found three things that would help him
architect his return.

The first was Pixar. Jobs snapped up the graphic-arts division of
Lucasfilm in 1986, which would go on to produce "Toy Story" in 1995
and set the standard for computer-graphics films. After making a
fortune from Pixar's IPO in 1995, Jobs eventually sold the company to
Disney in 2006.

The second was object-oriented software development. NeXT chose this
development model for its software operating systems, and it proved to
be more advanced and more nimble than the operating system
developments Apple was working on without Jobs.

The third was Laurene Powell, a Stanford MBA student who attended a
talk on entrepreneurialism given by Jobs in 1989 at the university.
The two wed in 1991 and eventually had three children; Reed, born in
1991, Erin, born in 1995, and Eve, born in 1998. Jobs has another
daughter, Lisa, who was born 1978, but Jobs refused to acknowledge he
was her father for the first few years of her life, eventually
reconciling with Lisa and her mother, his high-school girlfriend
Chris-Ann Brennan.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, having convinced then-CEO Gil Amelio
to adopt NeXTStep as the future of Apple's operating system
development. Apple was in a shambles at the time, losing money, market
share, and key employees.

By 1997, Jobs was once again in charge of Apple. He immediately
brought buzz back to the company, which pared down and reacquired a
penchant for showstoppers, such as the 1998 introduction of the iMac;
perhaps the first "Stevenote." His presentation skills at events such
as Macworld would become legendary examples of showmanship and star
power in the tech industry.

Jobs also set the company on the path to becoming a
consumer-electronics powerhouse, creating and improving products such
as the iPod, iTunes, and later, the iPhone and iPad. Apple is the most
valuable publicly-traded company in the world, surpassing
ExxonMobil?'s market capitalization in August.

He did so in his own fashion, imposing his ideas and beliefs on his
employees and their products in ways that left many a career in
tatters. Jobs enforced a culture of secrecy at Apple and was an
extremely demanding leader, terrorizing Apple employees when he
returned to the company in the late 1990s with summary firings if he
didn't like the answers they gave when questioned.

Jobs was an intensely private person. That quality put him and Apple
at odds with government regulators and stockholders who demanded to
know details about his ongoing health problems and his prognosis as
the leader and alter ego of his company. It spurred a 2009 SEC probe
into whether Apple's board had made misleading statements about his
health.

In the years before he fell ill in 2008, Jobs seemed to soften a bit,
perhaps due to his bout with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004.

In 2005, his remarks to Stanford graduates included this line:
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've
ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because
almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of
embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of
death, leaving only what is truly important."

Later, in 2007, he appeared onstage at the D: All Things Digital
conference for a lengthy interview with bitter rival Bill Gates,
exchanging mutual praise and prophetically quoting the Beatles: "You
and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead."

Jobs leaves behind his wife, four children, two sisters, and 49,000
Apple employees.

CNET's Tom Krazit, Josh Lowensohn and Erica Ogg contributed to this
report.

View Comments (267)