We all knew this was coming, and as journalists, we all knew we had to prepare for the worst. Even so, Cult of Mac never prepared an obituary for Steve Jobs, standard practice in the news game. He was too close to us, too much of a father figure. We tried to start one a dozen times over the years, but something always stopped us from being able to finish it: respect, love, a secret belief that as much of a personality as Jobs was could never really die, you name it. Putting our pens to paper to contemplate his death before it happened, it hurt too much.
Now he’s gone, and our hearts are too heavy to write a proper obituary. We miss Steve, and we just don’t have the distance yet. Instead, we’ve decided to put together the best pieces of all the obituaries out there to give our readers an overview of Steve’s incredible life. We hope it will be a jumping off point for you in a day best spent reading about Steve’s life, remembering the visionary he was and contemplating how we all can fill the void he has left.
Steve Jobs, who has died aged 56 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, made an unprecedented impact on the world’s consumer electronics markets with a string of hit products, including the iPod media player, iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet computer. In little over a decade, he took Apple – the company he co-founded in 1976 – from near-bankruptcy to being the world’s second most valuable company by market capitalisation, after the oil giant Exxon, with more than $50bn in the bank.
He was born on February 24 1955 to an Syrian Arab father and an American mother in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and adopted soon after his birth by a blue-collar California couple, Paul and Clara Jobs, who named him Steven Paul.
After completing high school in Cupertino, northern California, Jobs went north to study at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, but dropped out after a term. Returning to California, he took a job at Atari, the video games manufacturer, in order to save money for a “spiritual quest” to India. There he was converted to Zen Buddhism and vegetarianism and dabbled in hallucinogenic drugs.
On his return to America Jobs resumed his work with Atari and was given the task of creating a more compact circuit board for the game Breakout. He had little interest in the intricacies of circuit board design and persuaded his 16-year old friend, Steve Wozniak, to do the job for him, offering to split any bonus fifty-fifty. Jobs was given $5,000 by a delighted Atari, but Wozniak only got $300, under the impression the payout was $600.
The two young men started out with a few thousand dollars in cash and a vision of changing the world. Over the course of the past 35 years, the company and Jobs have gone on to change the world, the personal computing industry, the music and film industries and the mobile industry as we know.
Apple released its first mass-market product, the Apple II in 1976. The Apple II helped ignite what would become known as “the personal computer revolution” and thrust the charismatic Jobs into the spotlight. By the time IBM released its first PC in 1981 and Commodore released the Commodore 64 in 1982, Apple was already hard at work on the product that would cement Apple’s place in computing history, the Macintosh.
Brazenly introduced to the world in 1984 via a Super Bowl ad directed by Ridley Scott, the Macintosh helped set the standard for personal computing paradigms for the next decade.
Although the Mac was a revolution for the computer industry, Apple, Inc. suffered from internal divisions between CEO John Sculley and Steve Jobs. Weak Mac sales — part of an overall industry slump — exacerbated the conflicts between the two. Reports that Jobs had become difficult to work with became commonplace. On April 10th, 1985, a board meeting was held to convince Jobs to step back from management and become more of a product visionary. However, in the meeting, Jobs and Sculley began a two-day long power struggle over management of the company, with Jobs lobbying to have Sculley removed completely. Ultimately, Jobs lost. He remained Chairman of the company, but had no clear role. The conflicts continued until Sculley removed Jobs from Apple completely on May 31st, 1985.
After his departure, Jobs wasted little time, founding NeXT, a place where Jobs could continue to execute on his vision of desktop computing outside the sphere of Apple’s drama and bureaucracy. The slick, jet-black workstations that NeXT built were paired with a new operating system — NeXTSTEP — which was based on the up-and-coming Mach kernel, highly advanced for its time.
NeXT was hardly a success. The computers were too expensive to gain a wide following. Still, the software developed at NeXT would later provide the technological underpinnings for Apple machines.
The following year, Jobs bought George Lucas’s computer- graphics shop for $10 million and renamed it Pixar. The studio’s first feature film, “Toy Story,” was the top-grossing film of 1995, and kicked off an unbroken string of hits. Walt Disney Co. bought Pixar in 2006 for $8.06 billion and gave Jobs a seat on the company’s board. He became Disney’s largest shareholder.
In his personal life, Jobs settled down. He married Laurene Powell in 1991 in a Buddhist ceremony at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, according to biographer Deutschman. The couple have three children.
Meanwhile, Apple sans Jobs was failing on an epic scale. John Sculley had given way to a vision-free German Apple executive named Michael Spindler, who was replaced by Gil Amelio, a veteran of the computer-chip industry who was spectacularly unsuited to run Apple. He presided over $1.8 billion in losses in Apple’s 1996 and 1997 fiscal years, and failed to sell the company to interested white knights IBM and Sun MicroSystems. The possibility of Apple running out of cash and ceasing to exist was not unthinkable.
Amelio did make one smart move during his 500 days at Apple. Just before Christmas of 1996, he paid $430 million to buy NeXT, thinking that its software could serve as the foundation of a next-generation Mac operating system. It would. (Every operating system that Apple created from 2001 onwards, including the one on the iPhone and iPad, is a direct descendant.)
NeXT’s software came with a bonus: Steve Jobs. In a touching sign of naivete, Amelio apparently thought that he would cheerfully serve as a figurehead for the company he had co-founded. Instead, six months after the merger, Jobs orchestrated Amelio’s ouster and accepted the position of interim CEO — iCEO for short — splitting time with his Pixar duties.
After only two months on the job, Jobs gave a now-legendary presentation at Macworld Expo 1997, in which he introduced Bill Gates to jointly announce that Microsoft would invest $150m in Apple and commit to several new versions of Office for the Mac. The move sent shockwaves throughout the industry, with more to come.
Alongside designer Jonathan Ive, Steve Jobs initiated a quick reversal of the company, tapping Ive to design what would become the iMac. Ive had previously been frustrated by his lack of influence at Apple, feeling that design took place too late in the process of product development to “truly innovate.” Luckily, he had the CEO’s ear from day one, and the partnership created some of the most iconic products of a generation.
The first iMac was a stylish jab at the beige computers of the day, with a striking range of colours. Jony Ive’s refreshing design became a thing of mainstream technology lust — you didn’t need to be a geek to love computers any more.
Then the iPod and iTunes brought about a revolution in the music industry. In fact, it was so much more than just music — it opened the door to digital products being a normal thing to buy.
The iPhone would be Apple’s greatest coup. It brought touchscreen phones to the mainstream and Apple became a leading player in the mobile phone industry, out of nowhere. Suddenly, Apple could do anything.
The iPad could be the culmination of Jobs’ genius. The product had been planned for decades: this concept video is from 1987. It shows how Apple wanted to produce a tablet with what would become FaceTime and Siri two decades ago, predicting it would be available in September 2011.
Jobs said in 2004 that he had been diagnosed and treated for a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas. After surgery to remove an islet cell tumor, he took a month off to recuperate and declared himself healthy and cancer free.
For a few years he looked that way. He was thinner, which was no surprise after what he’d been through. One person who knew him well said that the cancer scare didn’t slow him down, convince him to spend more time with family or reconnect with friends. If anything, Jobs seemed to get even more engaged with work, said this person, who wished to remain anonymous because the matter was private.
During the 2005 Stanford commencement address, Jobs described how the inevitability of death was a motivating force in his life.
“Remembering 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,” he said.
Concerns about his health developed again in 2008, and after Jobs’s obituary was erroneously published by a wire service, he cited Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” at an Apple keynote event.
Jobs announced a six-month leave of absence at the start of 2009 to focus on his health, and had a successful liver transplant later that year.
In January 2011, Jobs announced another medical leave, his third, with no set duration. He returned to the spotlight briefly in March to personally unveil a second-generation iPad and again in June, when he showed off Apple’s iCloud music synching service. At both events, he looked frail in his signature jeans and mock turtleneck.
Less than three months later, Jobs resigned as CEO. In a letter addressed to Apple’s board and the “Apple community” Jobs said he “always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”
Jobs left a company with a market value larger than that of Microsoft and Dell combined. Apple’s revenue reached a record $65 billion in fiscal 2010, with analysts predicting that they will exceed $100 billion in 2011.
The Apple Jobs left behind was well suited to confront the challenges it then faced, including the Google threat, largely because of a product lineup Jobs set in motion, analysts and investors said at the time of his resignation. The concern is whether the company can produce industry-disrupting devices long after Jobs’s influence recedes.
Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene Powell, and four children – Reed, Erin, Eve, and Lisa who comes from a previous relationship with Chrisann Brennan. He is also survived by his sister, novelist Mona Simpson.