Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

I was slightly uncertain if blog about this or not. But since Steve Jobs has always been a great inspiration to me, I decided that it was important to write a few lines about his life on my blog. I know that kilometers of paper have been written and gigabytes of data have already been filled with similar articles, and mine does not pretend to add anything to what has already been said, but it is just a small tribute and nothing else.

Steven Jobs, was a charismatic technology pioneer who co-founded Apple Inc. and transformed one industry after another. He was able to influence more than anyone else different industries from computers and smartphones to music and movies.
He died a couple of days ago. He was 56.

Apple announced the death of Jobs on their website, in the same minimalistic way Steve himself most likely imagined. A small tribute page and few lines of text written by Tim Cook:
“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

He had resigned as CEO in August.

Only few public companies were as entwined with their leaders as Apple was with Jobs, he spoke of his desire to make “a dent in the universe,” bringing an incredible intensity to his message that technology was a tool to improve human life and unleash creativity. He had the ability to always come around and figure out where that next bet should be. And this was another of his great talents.

In his twenties, just dropped out of college won the title “father of the computer revolution”. But by 30 he had been forced out of the company he had created, a bitter wound he nursed for years as his fortune shrank and he fought to regain his early eminence. Once out of the wilderness of exile, however, he brought forth a series of innovations that quickly became ubiquitous. Thanks to his showmanship he turned the release of a new gadget into a cultural event.

When he was 12 or 13 he called the home of William Hewlett, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard (HP), to ask about parts he needed for a device he was building. For Jobs, it led to a humble summer job on a Hewlett-Packard assembly line, which he compared to being “in heaven.”

While attending the High School in Cupertino, Jobs met Steve Wozniak, a technical wizard who was in and out of college. Woz liked to make machines to show off to other tinkerers. The two collaborated on a series of pranks and built and sold “blue boxes”, devices that enabled users to hijack phone lines and make free — and illegal — calls, as depicted in the movie “Pirates of the Silicon Valley“.

By 1972, Jobs dropped out of college, after only six months but lingered on campus, sleeping on friends’ dorm-room floors. He sat in on classes that interested him, such as calligraphy, which later inspired him to offer Macintosh users multiple fonts, a feature that would become a fixture of personal computing.

Around those years he traveled to India on a quest for enlightenment and found guidance from a Zen Buddhist master. Meanwhile, Wozniak had created a computer circuit board he was showing off to a group of Silicon Valley computer hobbyists. Jobs saw the device’s potential for broad appeal and persuaded Wozniak to leave his engineering job so they could design computers themselves.

In 1976, the two launched Apple Computer out of Jobs’ parents’ garage, reproducing Wozniak’s circuit board as their first product.
They called it the Apple I and set the price at $666.66 (Woz liked repeating digits).
1977 brought the Apple II, which carried a then-novel keyboard and color monitor and became the first popular home computer.
In 1980 the company went public and the 25-year-old Jobs made an estimated $217 million.

Jobs liked to paint what he was selling as part of a revolution, an idea that reverberates in Silicon Valley start-ups today.  Some said he was by far the most articulate person our industry has ever had.

In 1983 he approached PepsiCo executive John Sculley to become chief executive of Apple, asking: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want to change the world?”

Jobs turned his attention to a small research effort called Macintosh, producing what he described as “the most insanely great computer in the world,” with a graphics-rich interface and a mouse that allowed users to navigate much more easily than they could with keyboard commands.

In 1984, Apple promoted the Macintosh with a television spot that aired during the Super Bowl. The minute-long commercial portrayed a sledgehammer-hurling runner heroically smashing the image of a sinister Big Brother figure, who was preaching to an assembly of gray drones.

“On Jan. 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh,
and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ’1984.’”

The Macintosh inaugurated an era of visual, clickable computing that remains the norm today, and its look, adopted by Microsoft for its Windows software, became a global standard. Still, although Jobs was a celebrity and wealthy beyond imagining, the Macintosh struggled early to capture sales and trailed the increasingly popular IBM PC.

Tensions flared between Jobs and Sculley, who, with the Apple board’s blessing, further reduced Jobs’ role, subsequently Jobs resigned. It was the 1985.

“What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I didn’t really know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down.
I was a very public failure.”

He started NeXT Computing, which made computers for higher education and corporations. Technologists took to the computers — including British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who used them to create the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. But at $6,000, they were too expensive for consumers and failed to catch on.

In 1986 Jobs began dabbling in moviemaking technology, buying a small computer graphics division from Lucasfilm, we know this company very well, its name is Pixar.

Around that time he met Laurene Powell, a Stanford business student, and they married in 1991 by a Buddhist monk.

NeXT and Pixar struggled financially, and he sank much of his personal fortune — upward of $70 million — into the two companies.

A 1993 Wall Street Journal article described “the decline of Mr. Jobs,” saying that his vision for NeXT resembled “a pipe dream” and portraying him as a once-great but increasingly irrelevant figure who might survive “as a niche player.”

The turnaround…
…began in late 1995 when Pixar released “Toy Story,” the first feature-length computer-animated film, and it became a smash hit. Pixar went public one week later, making Jobs a billionaire, and has continued to produce box-office hits such as “Up,” “Finding Nemo” and two “Toy Story” sequels. Walt Disney Co. bought Pixar for $7.5 billion in 2006, making Jobs the entertainment giant’s largest shareholder.

In Jobs’ absence, Apple had been foundering as its share of the computer market shriveled. Seeking new software for the Macintosh, Apple decided on NeXT’s system, and bought the company for $377 million.

Jobs came back to Apple as a “special advisor” in 1996, but within a year he orchestrated the ouster of most of Apple’s board and had himself installed as chief executive. He reshaped a moribund company into a technology titan, which this year temporarily surpassed Exxon Mobil Corp. as the world’s most valuable company.

The comeback was powered by a string of blockbuster products for which Jobs is largely credited — each of which had far-reaching effects in both culture and industry.

Presenting the iPod back in 2001 he said:

“To have your whole music library with you at all times is a quantum leap in listening to music,
how do we possibly do this?”

A moment later, he pulled the first iPod from his jeans pocket to show off the answer.

With the iPod’s release, Jobs lighted the way for the entertainment industry in the digital age. The iPod became Apple’s most popular product and soon captured about 70% of the market for digital music players.

Two years later, through deals that Jobs brokered with the recording industry, Apple opened its iTunes online store, which is now the country’s No. 1 music retailer. This transformed completely the industry, and what we experience today has been more or less influenced by this event.

In 2007 the iPhone gave the cellphone a touch screen and a Web browser and enabled the growth of a booming industry of small mobile games and applications. It was then that Jobs dropped the word “Computer” from Apple’s name to make it simply Apple Inc.

Last year, Apple released its iPad tablet computer, a wireless reading, gaming and Web-surfing slate that has sold nearly 30 million units since its release.

Before this event the tablet market was an expensive exercise of prototyping teams of other big companies.

In his second term at Apple, Jobs’ instincts became the company’s internal compass.

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” 

He had a cult-like following, and he mesmerized audiences when unveiling Apple’s newest products, but no one was shown anything until Jobs said it was time. He kept a tight lid on information flowing out of the Cupertino company. He was known as an imperious boss with little patience for weakness, one who launched blistering tirades that left subordinates fuming, or in tears.

“Steve tests you, challenges you, frightens you, he uses this as a tactic to get to the truth.”

For years, Jobs’ health was an issue that wouldn’t go away. Although he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, he did not reveal his illness for nine months. He finally agreed to surgery in 2004.

After the surgery, Jobs announced that he had recovered. But in 2009, he underwent a liver transplant that was only later brought to light by the Wall Street Journal. As time went on, Jobs looked noticeably thinner in public appearances.

In a Stanford commencement speech in 2005, Jobs spoke at length about mortality and its value as a force against complacency.

“Death is very likely the best invention of life, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

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6 comments
  1. Polly said:

    RIP steve!

  2. Pellucid said:

    Who did you pay to do your blog? Its really nicely designed I bet that is why you get so much traffic!

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