Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies at 56

Steve Jobs, iconic leader of Apple, technology entrepreneur and industry figurehead, is dead
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Steve Jobs, co-founder and chairman of Apple, has died on 5 October. He was 56.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, has died. Photo credit: James Martin/CNET News

Apple released a statement saying "We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts."

Google co-founder Sergey Brin posted online: "From the earliest days of Google, whenever Larry and I sought inspiration for vision and leadership, we needed to look no farther than Cupertino. Steve, your passion for excellence is felt by anyone who has ever touched an Apple product."

San Francisco native Steven Paul Jobs was born 24 February, 1955, to Abdulfattah John Jandali and Joanne Schieble, and adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. In 1960, the family moved to the Santa Clara Valley, better known as Silicon Valley.

Jobs attended Reed College in Oregon for a year, dropping out in 1972. He interleaved jobs at HP and Atari with a trip to India to visit guru Neem Karoli Baba, who died before Jobs arrived, and experiments with LSD.

He had already befriended Steve Wozniak, whom he met at high school; between then and 1976, when Apple Computer was founded, they worked together on a number of projects, including Atari's Breakout video game. Wozniak relates how a four-day sleepless design session resulted in a circuit so economical with its chip count that Atari paid Jobs a $5,000 bonus — a bonus that Wozniak only found out about years later.

Founding Apple

Apple came about after Wozniak's obsession with building his own computer had been catalysed by the Menlo Park Homebrew Computer Club, which both he and Jobs attended, and was made possible by the arrival of the 6502 microprocessor from MOS Technology. This cost $20, compared to Intel's $400 8080, and after some intensive lobbying by Jobs and the successful, if small, production run of the Apple I computer, Wozniak left his job at HP and Apple Computer was incorporated.

During the early years of the company, Steve Jobs ran management, sales and distribution while Wozniak produced the hardware and early software. The Apple II created the personal computer culture, going on to sell a million by 1983, and Apple Computer went public in 1980.

Between 1980 and 1985, Jobs's status as an industry figure increased despite rocky times at Apple. Two follow-ups to the Apple II, the Apple III and the Lisa, were commercial failures, while 1984's Macintosh, although destined for stardom, sold fitfully at first due to its high price and low performance.

Jobs had been removed from running the Lisa team by company president Mike Markkula, ostensibly for delays caused by adding features, and then taken off the Macintosh team by Apple chief executive John Sculley. A planned boardroom coup by Jobs misfired and on 31 May, 1985 he was relieved of all managerial duties, remaining as Apple chairman.

He resigned from the company altogether on Friday September 13 of that year, starting NeXT, Inc with six ex-Apple employees. The company produced a variety of workstations, none of which sold in commercially interesting numbers, but the operating and programming environment, NeXTSTEP, proved of enduring worth.

In 1986, Jobs bought the graphics group of Lucasfilm and set it up as an independent computer graphics company called Pixar. At first, it concentrated on selling the 3D modelling Pixar Image Computer — not very well — and the company struggled with weak sales until 1995. That year saw the Disney-funded Toy Story, the first completely computer-generated feature film and the highest grossing picture of the year, and Pixar's IPO. The dual success made Jobs' fortune; when Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Jobs joined the Disney board. 

Jobs's return

In December 1996, the troubled Apple bought NeXT for that company's object-oriented system software; Jobs himself returned to Apple in 1997, first as a consultant, then in July as 'interim CEO'. He immediately started rebuilding the company, then in some disorder after a variety of diverse strategies, into the focused monolith of today: he reputedly found UK-born designer Jony Ive and the first designs for the iMac in a corner of the company and started from there.

The iMac was launched in 1998, as was Jobs' trademark style of product introduction, redolent of a magician unveiling a trick that seems far too good to be real. But the iMac line and the products that followed — the iPod, iPhone and iPad — were both real and world-beating examples of industrial design married to disciplined corporate vision and, behind the scenes, exemplary supply line and production management.

Although Jobs assembled an extremely talented managerial team at Apple, he himself became synonymous with the company and it with him, and as commercial renaissance turned into spectacular phenomenon both it and he acquired an aura of impeccable showmanship around a core of remote genius.

Jobs' aversion for publicity in the last decade of his life perversely reinforced his public image: no CEO was or is so intimately associated with their company. This intensive secrecy coupled to his identification as the very spirit of Apple became controversial as details of his health problems became known.

In 2004, he fell ill with pancreatic cancer, a disease with a very high fatality rate; his rare version of the condition proved tractable and he returned to work. Although the company said he was in good health, his physical appearance at his keynote presentation at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in 2006 shocked observers. From then onwards, his condition was a matter for public, sometimes acrimonious, debate.

In January 2009, Jobs took a six-month medical leave of absence; in April, he had a liver transplant but subsequently returned to work in 'excellent' health. However, in 2011 he took more medical leave before resigning as chief executive of Apple on 24 August, less than two months before his death.

Jobs leaves behind his wife, Laurene Powell and three children; Reed, born in 1991, Erin, born in 1995, and Eve, born in 1998. Jobs also leaves his first daughter, Lisa, from a relationship with Chris-Ann Brennan in 1978.

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