Danton J. Thompson
The word “icon” gets thrown around often in today’s world with the ushering in of almost every new celebrity, socialite or politician, but few people’s names can actually be spoken in that sense and be entirely true.
Steven Paul Jobs was much more than an inventor and an entrepreneur; he was a world changer, an innovator and an icon. On Oct. 5, 2011, just a day after his company announced the release of the latest iPhone device, Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, leaving behind a world in mourning.
Jobs had influence in almost every field of life, from home computers, to mobile phones to children’s movies. Though he led a controversial life, in death he is remembered for his Midas touch when it came to anything technological.
While in high school, Jobs attended afterschool programs and lectures held at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, Calif., where he would later live permanently. Jobs was hired one summer to work at Hewlett-Packard, an experience he later stated was a dream job. Coincidentally, that summer he worked with future Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak.
Jobs attended college immediately after he graduated high school in 1972 at Reed College in Portland, Ore., dropping out after only one semester. Ever the opportunist, Jobs continued to sit in on various classes at the university while living in his friends’ rooms, sleeping on their floors, and returning Coke bottles for food money. Jobs would later go on to say that it was during this “squatting” period that he learned the most he ever did from that university. Jobs stated that it was a calligraphy course he “audited” during his off season in college that inspired him to make proportionally spaced fonts for his Mac computers.
Two years later Jobs had a real job as a technician for Atari Inc., engineering newer chips for the company’s home video game console. Though he was hailed for his vast abilities at his young age, he was only employed there to save up money to go on vacation in India. After making enough money to pay for his trip, Jobs traveled to India with a friend from college and came back a spiritually enlightened Buddhist, complete with a shaved head and traditional Indian attire.
After returning to Atari, Jobs was once again put in charge of designing circuitry for its new games. His job was to reduce the number of chips in the game “Breakout.” He was offered $100 for each chip he was able to take out of the circuit board. With the help of Wozniak, he was able to reduce the number of chips by 50, which was a better job than Atari had ever imagined. Their design was so innovative that the assembly line wasn’t able to produce it.
The next year, Wozniak and Jobs became members of the Homebrew Computer Club, an underground group of computer hackers and IT entrepreneurs. In 1976, Jobs, along with Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, founded Apple.
Around 1978, Apple was exploding, and Jobs started to become very well known for this smooth, shark-like business ways. Mike Scott of National Semiconductor was brought on staff to serve as CEO for Apple, which eventually turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. Five years later, Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola to work as the new CEO of Apple with the now infamous line, “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?”
Jobs, inspired by the mouse-driven graphical user interface, created the Apple Lisa in 1983 and, after being harshly ousted from the Lisa project, he helped produce the first Macintosh in 1984. By the end of 1984, Jobs’s “erratic and unpredictable” behavior had driven a rift between him and Sculley. The board of directors at Apple instructed Sculley that he had to “contain” Jobs as he was running the company into the ground. Jobs, thinking the exact opposite, had been trying to organize a group to oust Sculley, as he believed that Sculley was the one who was bad for the company. The board sided with Sculley and removed Jobs from all of his administrative duties as head of the Macintosh division. Furious, Jobs resigned five months later from the entire company and went on to found NeXT Inc. the exact same year.
Jobs’s NeXT computers were beyond any other computer available to the market at the time, but suffered from their $9,999 price tag. It was marketed primarily to people in the field of science and finances, as they were more than likely the only ones who could afford it. The NeXT computer was revolutionary as it was one of the first brand of computers that fully realized the power of a multi-media email system and an Ethernet port. It has been said that Jobs was more obsessed with how his NeXT model computers looked rather than their actual level of innovation. The NeXTcube, released in 1990, was a sleek, stylish computer, completely encased in a cube-like design. Strain was put on the hardware division of NeXT due to having to fit all of its hardware into the tiny, magnesium-cubed case.
In 1996, Apple bought Job’s NeXT company for $439 million, putting Steve Jobs right back where he started and where he felt like he belonged. This started Jobs’s new rise to power. In 1997, Apple ousted its then CEO Gil Amelio, and Jobs became the CEO.
Most of Jobs’s original concepts for his NeXT computers later found their way into Apple products. The NeXTSTEP operating system, that ran on all of the NeXT computers, later evolved into Mac OS X. Concepts left over from future NeXT computers were compiled together and eventually the iMac was born, which was a financial goldmine. It was during this period, when Apple realized the potential of branding its products, that the iPod was born out of this concept. With the iPod came iTunes and later the iPhone, which are all still used and nationally respected as the absolute best in media.
Earlier, in 1986, Jobs had bought The Graphics Group, a computer graphics company, from Lucasfilm. The company was later renamed Pixar and partnered with Disney to co-produce a series of computer-animated feature films. Jobs hit a homerun right off the bat with 1995’s “Toy Story,” which is to this day revered as one of the best children’s movies of all time. Jobs was given an executive producer credit for the movie. Pixar partnered with Disney and went on to release several high profile blockbusters such as “Finding Nemo,” “Cars” and “Toy Story 3,” which won an Oscar for the best animated feature film in 2010.
In August 2011, Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple. Though he resigned, Jobs stayed on at the company as a chairman on the company’s board.
Jobs died around 3 p.m. on Oct. 5 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. Jobs is survived by his wife of 20 years, Laurene, their three children, and a daughter from a previous relationship.
Shortly after his death was announced, media outlets were ablaze with condolences and responses from all corners of the world. The visionary’s loss was front page news across almost every publication, triggering responses from the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, President Barack Obama and Bob Iger of The Walt Disney Co. Recently, Oct. 16 was declared “Steve Jobs Day” by the Jerry Brown, the governor of California, in celebration of the native who was born and died in the state.
Though his body may have passed on, Jobs has left behind many lifetimes worth of work and inspiration for many generations to come.
"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. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish." – Steve Jobs, in a graduation address to Stanford University.
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