Born: February 24, 1955
San Francisco, California
Cofounder and CEO, Apple Computer, Inc.
Steve Jobs, cofounder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Computer, Inc., may be one of the best examples of a modern business leader willing to "think outside the box." Jobs saw the potential of the personal computer as a tool for businesses, families, and schools at a time when computers were expensive and foreign to most people. At Apple and his other businesses, NeXT and Pixar, Jobs has always looked for what he calls the next "insanely great" product.
Steven Paul Jobs was put up for adoption shortly after his birth in 1955. His adoptive parents were Paul and Clara Jobs of San Francisco. When Jobs was a boy his family moved from the city to Mountain View, near Palo Alto. The Jobs moved again several years later, to Los Altos. Jobs grew up in "Silicon Valley," the heart of the U.S. computer industry.
"What is Apple after all? Apple is about people who think 'outside the box,' people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get the job done."
A bright student, Jobs skipped a grade in elementary school. Shy and not very social, he developed an early interest in electronics. A neighbor encouraged Jobs to join an electronics club sponsored by Hewlett-Packard Company (see entry), one of the major corporations in Silicon Valley. At one of the meetings, Jobs saw his first computer. He was twelve years old.
Around 1970, Jobs met Steve Wozniak, who shared his interest in electronics and knew more than he did on the subject. By the time he left high school in 1972, Jobs had worked with Wozniak on several projects. By then Jobs was a "hippie," with long hair and ripped jeans. He went to Reed College in Oregon for two years then dropped out to pursue another interest—Eastern religions, particularly Zen Buddhism. He and a friend planned to travel to India, the birthplace of Buddhism more than twenty-five hundred years ago.
Before the trip, Jobs worked at Atari, a computer and video-game manufacturer based in Silicon Valley. An assignment with the company took him to Germany, and from there Jobs went on to India. After exploring Indian religions, Jobs returned to California and his job at Atari. The trip, and some later psychological therapy, seemed to change Jobs. One friend told Jeffrey S. Young, author of the Jobs biography The Journey is the Reward, "He was a lot easier to be with after that. He started to think a little more about how things he said might affect other people."
While working at Atari, Jobs renewed his friendship with Wozniak. The two went to meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, and Wozniak began building his own computer. While Wozniak and most of the other club members saw computers as a hobby, Jobs began to see their potential for business. Jobs convinced Wozniak they could build a computer that others would buy.
In April 1976, Wozniak and Jobs formed the Apple Computer Company to sell the computer Wozniak had designed. They assembled them in the Jobs family's garage. From the beginning, Wozniak's role was to improve the technology; Jobs took charge of finding money for the new company. When the second Apple computer, the Apple II, came on the market, Jobs also took the lead in convincing programmers to create software for the computer. With the Apple II, Jobs and Wozniak created the personal computer industry.
Although Wozniak designed the insides of the Apple II, Jobs played a role in how the computer looked. He insisted it come in a plastic case and look sleek sitting on a desk. He also wanted the computer to be quiet. Most computers need a fan to keep the parts cool and functioning properly. Jobs found an engineer who designed a power-supply unit that did not produce much heat and did not need a fan, creating a nearly silent machine.
Sales of the Apple II rose steadily the next few years. As Apple grew, Jobs tried to keep the atmosphere fun. Employees could wear t-shirts and the company threw many parties. Jobs, however, sometimes conflicted with top managers or anyone who questioned his decisions. He developed a reputation for having a large ego and always wanting things his way. When his ideas worked, Apple did well. When they did not, the company sometimes struggled.
One failure was the Lisa, a new computer introduced in 1983. Named for Jobs's daughter, the computer offered many new features but was overpriced. The next Apple product was the Macintosh, or "Mac." Jobs had been working with his engineers on the computer for several years. Like the Lisa, the Mac had features that made it easy to use. Unlike the Lisa, the Mac was affordable. Introduced in 1984, the Macintosh later turned out to be Apple's best seller.
When young Steve Jobs went to Germany on business, the engineers who met him did not believe that the longhaired "hippie" was really from Atari. Jobs amazed them when he solved a technical problem with a video game in just two hours.
By 1985, Jobs was chairman of Apple's board of directors. He shared control of the company with John Sculley, Apple's president and CEO. The company faced difficult times, trying to overcome early problems with the Mac, and Jobs and Sculley argued over how to turn around Apple's misfortunes. Finally, Sculley asserted his authority. He reorganized the company so that Jobs lost all his power. In September, Jobs resigned.
At thirty years old, Jobs was the most dynamic executive in Silicon Valley, a multimillionaire—and out of a job. He wasted no time starting a new company, NeXT, to build computers and design software. Jobs planned to target the education market, and he took several Apple employees with him to help build his new computer. Some of the money needed to start the new firm came from selling his shares in Apple. By 1986, he owned just one. That year, Jobs also bought a computer animation company, Pixar, from filmmaker George Lucas (1944-), the producer of the Star Wars films. Over the next several years, Jobs spent $40 million more on this new venture.
Steve Jobs has always been the most public of Apple's two cofounders, but without Stephen Gary "Woz" Wozniak, the first Apple computer would not have been built. Born on August 11,1950, in San Jose, California, Wozniak designed his first computer while in sixth grade. In high school, he was president of the electronics clubs, won several awards for his creations, and worked as an intern at a local electronics company. Like jobs, Wozniak did not have many friends. Unlike his more serious partner, however, Wozniak was known as a practical joker. He once built a very realistic-looking fake bomb and put it in a friend's locker.
After high school, Wozniak worked for several electronics firms, continuing to design computers in his spare time. In 1975, he built the computer that became the
In 1981, Wozniak was injured in a plane crash and took time off from Apple to recover. During his break from Apple, he went to college and sponsored two large rock concerts, the US Festivals. After he returned to work, Wozniak limited his involvement with the company and finally left in 1985. In 1992, he started a new job: teaching computers to elementary school students.
Wozniak kept his shares in Apple's stock, though he had given away a great number of shares right before the company went public in 1980. He also followed the company's progress through good and bad times. In 1996, during one of Apple's low points, he wrote in Newsweek that Apple's leaders—including him—had failed the company with some of their decisions. The biggest mistake, he wrote, was not letting other manufacturers use Apple's superior operating system. Wozniak added, "We were also naive to think that the best technology would prevail. It often doesn't."
Along with teaching, Wozniak did charitable work, giving time, money, and computer equipment to different groups. He also remained involved with new technologies. In 2001, he joined the board of directors of Danger, a company that designs wireless communication devices. The next year, Wozniak announced he was forming a new company, Wheels of Zeus (wOz) to design his own wireless products.
NeXT introduced its first computer in 1988. Housed in a black metal case, the machine looked beautiful. It also had its own operating system, better than existing ones. But NeXT could not compete with Apple and the Microsoft-based personal computers that dominated the market. In February 1993, Jobs announced that NeXT would stop selling computers to concentrate on designing software.
Jobs had better success with Pixar. Working with the Walt Disney Company (see entry), Pixar made the first full-length animation movie created totally by computers. This historic film, Toy Story, was released in 1995 and became an immediate hit. Shortly after the movie was released, Jobs appeared on Charlie Rose, an interview program on PBS. Jobs said he was "not really following the computer industry much anymore." Jobs's involvement in the industry shrank again in December 1996, when he sold NeXT to Apple.
Just a few months later, Jobs was ready to return to the computer industry—as a consultant at Apple. The title did not indicate Jobs's true role, as he soon took charge again. At a convention for Mac users and programmers, Jobs received a standing ovation, a sign of the respect he had earned for his earlier successes at Apple. By some accounts, Jobs had mellowed. He was not as demanding as he had once been. But he still possessed what some journalists called the "Reality Distortion Field": his ability to make others believe even his wildest ideas were possible.
Under Jobs, Apple continued to introduce successful new products and a few that did not sell very well. His most important contribution may have been restoring a sense of enthusiasm to the Apple "family"—its employees and devoted customers. Even as the United States economy hit difficult times in 2001, Jobs was confident about the future. In January 2002 he told Time, "Victory in our industry is spelled survival. The way we're going to survive is to innovate our way out of this."
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