Steve Jobs: He Made Great Stuff
Steve Jobs: He Made Great Stuff
One of America’s great innovators died on October 5, 2011. Steve Jobs, the chairman of Apple Computer, died peacefully of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. He left a wife and four children. He also left tens of millions of devoted fans whose very lives he changed with his innovations and inventions.
Steve Jobs is the very personification of American exceptionalism. He may have contributed to liberal causes, after all he was a Californian, but first and foremost he was an entrepreneur. With his friend and fellow Homebrew Computer Club member Steve Wozniak and a third person, he founded Apple Computer at the age of 21. Their first corporate office was the Jobs family garage in Los Gatos, California.
Their first computer was the Apple I. It was primitive by today’s standards. It required a television to function as a monitor. This was revolutionary since most computers of this era printed out the responses. Eventually, the young entrepreneurs built 200 of them. Apple Computer was on its way.
In 1977 they introduced the Apple II which was a giant step forward from the Apple I. The difference was a completely redesigned TV interface, which held the display in memory. Now not only useful for simple text display, the Apple II included graphics, and, eventually, color. Jobs meanwhile pressed for a much improved case and keyboard, with the idea that the machine should be complete and ready to run out of the box. This was a huge new innovation since most computers of the time required complete assembly.
There were some notable failures: the Apple III and the Lisa (a forerunner of the Mac). The Lisa had a graphic user interface or GUI that Apple was allowed to copy from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center PARC) for the right to buy $1,000,000 of pre-IPO Apple stock.
Jobs left Apple after a corporate fight which he lost but he never left the tech industry. He tried his hand with a computer workstation that was designed to be used for the education field. He founded NeXT computer in 1985 but the computers had a very high price point of $9,999 and were not that successful. However, with every new generation he added new innovative features that were standard, such as the Mach kernel, the digital signal processor chip, and the built-in Ethernet port.
In 1996, NeXT Software, Inc. released WebObjects, a framework for web application development. After NeXT was acquired by Apple Inc. in 1996 for $429 million, WebObjects was used to build and run the Apple Store, MobileMe services, and the iTunes Store.
In 1985 Jobs had purchased a company called The Graphics Group from Lucasfilm‘s computer graphics division. He later renamed it Pixar Animation Studio. The company’s original mission was to produce high-end graphics hardware but they were not very successful. Eventually, they contracted with Disney Studios to create computer generated animated feature length films. The rest is history. Pixar has created numerous blockbusters such as, the three Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life and many more. In January 2006 Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion. He became Disney’s biggest single shareholder with 7% of the stock.
With the purchase of NeXT Jobs returned to Apple as de facto CEO. Apple was in poor financial condition and Jobs took dramatic measures to return the company to prosperity. He killed a number of projects. He eliminated the Macintosh-clone licensing program returning all manufacturing to Apple. Then he proceeded to invent and innovate again.
In 2001 Apple introduced the IPod portable music player. It was a smash hit with over 297,000,000 sold so far. With it came the ITunes store with billions of downloads. At the same time Apple was introducing numerous versions of the Mac and Apple laptops. The latest invention is the IPad tablet computer that is revolutionizing computer and revitalizing the industry. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the IPad is the most flattered computer in the history of computing.
Steve Jobs ranks with some of the greatest inventors that America has ever produced. He blonds in the pantheon that includes Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Quite simply he changed the lives and habits of the entire world. His epitaph for many will be simply “He made great stuff”.