It is with a heavy heart that I first pressed my fingers to the keys tonight, knowing that one of the most lauded and respected men in the world. . . is dead.
He started as a humble adopted son, and started his life in San Francisco. It is unknown why his biological parents gave him up; perhaps due to college stresses, but the move for Steven Paul Jobs, as he was named, proved quite remarkable.
He attended Cupertino High School, and while there, frequented after-school lectures at his favorite Silicon Valley company, the soon-to-be huge, Hewlett Packard Company of Palo Alto. It was perhaps at Hewlett that Steve developed his first real love for computing. He was hired there, along with his life-long cohort Steve Wozniak, for a summer job. He recently recalled a memory of this time, at the unveiling of the new Apple headquarters to the Town Hall of Cupertino; “I just loved biking through those peach orchards on the way to work; I want to bring it back to that.”
Funny to think that one of the world’s richest men began life riding through peach orchards, to work at a future competitor.
In autumn 1974, Steve began attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club with Wozniak. He also took a job at the popular Atari, which some many know by the cult hit Pong.
But, It was in 1976, that Steven P. Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and others, would found The Big One. Apple Computer. Steve somehow managed to push Woz, who is a skilled electronics hacker, to build a computer for them to sell. The Apple 1, as it was called, barely contained enough kick to even start to resemble a modern-day computer, but it was, the first personal computer to become popular.
In 1983 Steve recruited John Sculley from Pepsi-Cola, to become Apple’s CEO. He famously asked him, in classic Steve snark; “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
Words like that later proved eerily accurate.
The following year was a big year for Apple. At an annual shareholder meeting, a reportedly emotional Jobs introduced what would be the very first Macintosh to a well-receiving audience. Andy Hertzfield later described the scene as “pandemonium.” Somewhat surprisingly, The Macintosh became the first commercially, widely successful personal computer, which also introduced the same sort of graphical interface that we now have become accostomed to.
Yes, Jobs was a very charismatic director for Apple, but in those days, he was seen as something of a tyrant, which led to Sculley, in May 1985, relieving Steve of his position.
Steve later described this time as being the best thing that could have happened to him;“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.”
Jobs went on to found NeXT Computer, which, after some failing commercial hardware products, went on to produce software.
In 1986 Jobs made one of the most lucrative acquisitions of his career, buying Pixar from George Lucas. It went at $10 million at the time, $5 million of which was simply given to the company as capital. Jobs was named a producer on Toy Story, and along with John Lasseter, went on to create some of the most memorable animated pictures, arguably, in history.
in January of 2006, Jobs and Bob Iger announced that Disney had agreed to purchase Pixar in a transaction of $7.4 billion. After the deal closed, Jobs became Disney’s single largest shareholder with 7% of the company’s stock. Jobs simply joined the six-man steering committee after the merger.
While Jobs was off meandering with Pixar and NeXT, Apple had fallen on hard times. In fact, they were about ninety days from chapter eleven. But that was soon to change.
In 1996, Apple announced that it would buy NeXT for $429 million. After the deal finalized, Jobs came back to Apple, becoming the new de facto CEO. And he was about to really use that power. He quickly went on a terminating spree, cutting all the loose fat. His actual firings were rare, but he managed to get rid of a few key employees that he felt were weighing down the company. Most notably, however, he terminated a number of ongoing projects at Apple, namely the iPad precursor, the Apple Newton.
Over the next decade, Jobs flew; introducing the iMac, and then the first iPod. iTunes released to become iPod’s sibling, and the Apple Store became the hub for which these products would see consumer’s thirsty eyes. Mac OS X was released, and has since become, arguably, the worlds most intuitive, powerful operating system. The iPhone, and iOS became Apple’s swan song in the last few years, and that summary leaves out a huge amount of other amazing products.
He upended the technological world. Albeit not single-handedly, but he did, he changed the game. He surrounded himself with the best, and set out on a quest to develop the best products he could. We have lived through an incredible part of history being made. Steve Jobs popularized the personal computer, he popularized well-made, beautiful products. Before he came along, everyone believed that to own a computer, you must have a tower, a monitor, and maybe a sneaky desk to hide the nasty tower, made of low-grade, ugly plastic nonetheless.
And then came along the iMac. Jonathan Ive, a lead designer at Apple, and friend of Steve’s was a head on the project. And. . . It looked like nothing else. It eschewed the traditional trappings of a personal computer. A all-in-one, a mouse, a keyboard. And a love was kindled in millions of people. Because you see, they didn’t just fall in love with the looks, or the ease of use, or the applications, or the rock-solid UNIX foundation, or pretty much anything about it. They fell in love with something it offered, that all Apple products, to this day offer; an experience, made not from grunt labor, but from love.
Steve said of the iMac; “We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.”
And people will look back a hundred years from now, and wonder why Steve rocketed to the top like he did. It was a lot of things; but the number one, in my opinion, was love. He loved what he did, with an unwilling, unrelenting fervor. He didn’t cut corners to save money, he gave the public what he would want in a product, what he would want in a personal experience. He was notorious for being incredibly picky, once calling a App designer at Google to change the hue of yellow in his app icon. He was a perfectionist, a follower of clean and simple design. He loved standing on that stage, delivering the next new product, you could just tell; he was quite often criticized for his over-zealous use of adjectives like beautiful, wonderful, and amazing. He took the emphasis off himself, wearing the same understated black turtleneck and blue wranglers for years now. For him, it was about the product, nothing else. He wasn’t ever putting on a show; the iPod, the iPhone, the iMac; they didn’t require it. People sat, and watched, enraptured, in awe, of the innovations, the labor of love pouring out from Apple.
He quite honestly inspired me, a man from such humble beginnings, to becoming, if not the most, one of the most incredible public figures of this century. He repeatedly changed the way we think about consumer electronics, about the way computers and phones work. He understood our needs and our wants, before we even knew we had them. In doing so, he ushered in another revolution, in tandem with the ongoing tech revolution; The Apple Revolution. More people now own an iPod than I care to shake a stick at, the iPhone is sitting on top of the smartphone market, that, ironically, it created. The iPad is still the only tablet to hold a respectable market share. I’m sure you can guess the reason why at this point, but I’ll tell you anyways. Steven P. Jobs.
Perhaps towards the end, death was something of a driving force for Steve, as powerfully evidenced in a June 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech:
“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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Steve was a thinker, a doer, an innovator, a leader. He was a visionary, with ideas that changed the world. He will be missed sorely by his many fans, who will miss his zeal, his charisma, his love for his company, and his humble nature. He has inspired millions besides me to do their best in life; to shoot for the stars. And he didn’t make it as far as we wished, or he wished, but he had a damn good run.
Thanks Steve; for everything. I’ll miss you.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
[The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]