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Jobs, Steve - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Steve Jobs

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Apple Computer


Maverick computer innovator Steve Jobs, along with his friend and partner, Steve Wozniak, formed the Apple Computer Company in the late 1970s. They pioneered the design and development of desktop computers for the general public. The creation of the Macintosh computer in the mid-1980s ushered in a new era of tremendously widespread user friendly machines. After being ousted from Apple, Jobs went on to form the NeXT Computer Company. He also bought Pixar Animation Studios, where Toy Story, the first wholly computer generated and animated film, was created.

Personal Life

Jobs was born in 1955 and was put up for adoption by his unwed parents shortly after his birth. Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountainview, California, adopted him. The elder Jobs was a machinist who worked on lasers, while his wife was an accountant.

Jobs and his parents moved to Los Altos, California, before he entered high school. A statement the preteen Jobs made to his parents allegedly precipitated the move: he said that he wouldn’t return to school in Mountainview, so his parents decided to move. While a high school student, Jobs contacted William Hewlett, the president of Hewlett Packard, and asked for some parts for an electronics project. Jobs not only obtained the parts he desired; he was offered a summer job at Hewlett Packard.

Jobs graduated from high school in 1972 and briefly attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. In 1974, he went to work for Atari Incorporated as a video game designer. After saving some money from his stint at Atari, Jobs was able to embark on a spiritual sojourn to the Indian subcontinent during the summer of 1974. While in India, Jobs sought to immerse himself in the Eastern way of life. A bout with dysentery in the autumn of 1974 cut his trip short and Jobs moved back to California and into a commune.

Career Details

By 1975, Jobs started to get involved with the Homebrew Computer Club, which was headed by Steve Wozniak, an acquaintance of his from Hewlett Packard. Wozniak was starting to develop what would become the prototype for the Apple Computer series. Jobs had persuaded him to market his designs and prototypes and the two of them began, in earnest, to develop what would ultimately become the first Apple Computer.

Jobs and Wozniak worked on the Apple I in Jobs’ garage and by 1976 they offered models for sale. The most uniquely innovative feature of the $700 machine was its single board read-only memory (ROM), which instructed the computer to load and read other programs from outside sources.

The development and sale of the Apple II, which retained the unique features of its predecessor in an updated format, began in 1977. Jobs then got in touch with the former marketing manager at Intel and brought him to Apple. Jobs began to encourage independent programmers to create software for the Apple II, and soon everything from business management tools to video games became available for use on the Apple II.

First year sales for Apple were almost $3 million. Impressive as that was, it paled in comparison to the figures reached by the beginning of the 1980s. By 1980, sales had ballooned to $200 million, and the phenomenal success of Apple helped to usher in the revolutionary personal computer era.

Throughout the 1980s, Apple was forced to continuously update its systems in order to stay ahead of the competition. Jobs and Apple faltered a bit with the release of the Apple III in 1980. The model was riddled with technical and marketing problems and as a result, sold poorly.

In 1983, Jobs pitched Lisa as the computer for business people who had limited computer expertise. Lisa did not sell well due to its high price and the increased competition from IBM who, by 1983, had gained half of Apple’s market share.

In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh computer. Envisioned as the computer that would revitalize not only Apple but the computer industry as well, the Macintosh floundered at first. The initial downfall of the Macintosh in business circles was its lack of a letter-quality printer and a hard drive. The less than stellar sales of the Macintosh were instrumental in bringing about Jobs’ forced resignation from Apple.

Social and Economic Impact

Mounting pressure at Apple set the stage for Jobs’ resignation, in 1985, although he still remained chairman of the board of directors of the company. Shortly after Jobs left Apple, he formed the NeXT Computer Company. In 1988, the NeXT computer boasted a number of innovations, including extremely quick processing speeds, a superb graphics and sound system, and an optical disk drive. Despite all of these innovations, however, sales of the NeXT computer fell flat, due to its steep price, black and white screen, and inability to network. Not to be deterred, Jobs pressed on with NeXT, changing the focus from hardware to software. NeXT eventually gained some prestige by helping to facilitate the establishment of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

In 1986, Jobs acquired Pixar Animation Studios for $10 million from filmmaker George Lucas. Jobs poured large amounts of his own money into Pixar to develop and establish it as a premiere movie studio. His $50 million investment in Pixar paid off as the first wholly computer-animated film Toy Story was a certified smash hit when it was released in 1995. By 1997, Jobs’ 80 percent share of Pixar was worth $1 billion.

By 1996, Jobs was looking to sell NeXT and more fully concentrate his efforts on Pixar. He eventually sold it to Apple for $400 million. At the time, Apple was in need of an updated operating system and NeXT had one to offer, plus NeXT had developed an association with Internet users that Apple desired as well. Apple also acquired Jobs as a part-time consultant for Apple’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gilbert Amelio.

Commenting on his return to Apple, Jobs told Steve Lohr of the New York Times Magazine , “It was like the first adult love of your life; something that is always special to you no matter how it turns out.”

Jobs was instrumental in engineering the joint agreement between Apple and its great rival, Microsoft. Both companies agreed to cooperate on selected marketing and technological issues of mutual interest.

In September of 1997, Jobs was named interim CEO of Apple. After his return, he implemented the eighth version of the Macintosh operating system, developed a dialogue with Microsoft, and eliminated Apple’s clone licensing program.

Chronology: Steve Jobs

1955: Born.

1955: Adopted.

1975: Joined Homebrew Computer Club.

1976: Formed Apple Computer Company with Steve Wozniak.

1977: Unveiled Apple II computer.

1984: Introduced Macintosh computer.

1985: Resigned from Apple.

1985: Formed NeXT Computer Company.

1986: Bought Pixar Animation Studios.

1997: Named interim chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple.

Emphasizing the past appeal of Apple, Jobs told Lohr, “Great products are a triumph of taste; of trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”

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