Steve Jobs was born Steven Paul Jobs on February 24, 1955 and lived a glorious life of imagination, creativity and the pursuit of perfection until his unfortunate demise on October 5, 2011. Some have called Steve an American entrepreneur or a businessman, but he was much more than that to those who knew him best. He was the rare kind of dreamer who not only was able to think beyond the boundaries of the present, but also had the sheer force of will to bring those ambitious notions to fruition in ways that all people will feel and benefit from for many generations, long after he has gone from us.
Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (with intro by President John Hennessy)
Unlike many titans of industry who succeed in one venture and leave experts to debate whether they were successful due to luck or aptitude, Steve Jobs left no doubts by creating Apple - the most valuable company in the history of humanity, building Pixar from a fledgling movie studio into the tail that wags the dog at Disney, rebuilding Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to new levels of success never achieved before and along the way also founding NeXT which is still lauded as a computer company so far ahead of its time that even the best modern computers still lack some of the functionality engineered into NeXT consoles decades ago.
Steve Jobs Childhood
Steven Paul Jobs was born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955 to two university students, Joanne Carole Schieble and Syrian-born Abdulfattah "John" Jandali (Arabic: ÚÈÏÇáÝÊÇÍ ÌäÏáíý). His biological parents were not married at the time. His father Mr. Jandali, was teaching in Wisconsin when Steve was born, has said publicly that putting Steve Jobs up for adoption was the only choice because Steve's biological maternal Schieble family strongly objected to the relationship he shared with Steve's mother.
That lead to one of the most astonishing twists of irony in Steve Jobs life. His mother was adamant that whoever adopted Steve would have to guarantee that one day he would graduate college. However, Steve's birth-mother found out that his prospective adoptive parents had never completed their own university educations. In fact, his adoptive father Paul Reinhold Jobs (1922–1993) attended high school while his adoptive mother Clara Jobs (nee Hagopian) attended college but had not finished her course studies.
According to Steve Jobs, Schieble required his adoptive parents to promise her that Steve would graduate college before she was willing to sign the official adoption papers. While he lived an extraordinary life a very well may have become the single most influential person of his entire era, Steve never did complete a full college degree - though he received many honorary degrees and academic awards which satisfied his parent's agreement to at least some extent.
Steve became a strong proponent of adoption in his later life and when asked about his "adoptive parents" Jobs was always emphatic that from his point of view Paul and Clara Jobs were his parents. He even stated in his authorized biography, "they were my parents 1,000%."
Jandali and Schieble who gave birth to Steve did subsequently get married in December of 1955. They had a second child, Steve Job's biological sister, novelist Mona Simpson (nee Jandali) in 1957, and then later divorced in 1962. In his later life Steve Jobs became very close with his sister and rekindled a relationship with his birth-mother while always remaining tight-knit with his own parents. Steve never built a relationship with his biological father, nor did his sister who summed up the family ties in her eulogy of Steve Jobs (published in the New York Times on October 30, 2011):
I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people. Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.
Steve Jobs Youth
The Jobs family moved to Mountain View, California from San Francisco when Steve was five years old and adopted a daughter, Patti as Steve's sister. Paul worked as a machinist for a company that made lasers, and taught Steve about rudimentary electronics. More than that, he is credited with instilling a passion for tech and a joy for invention in Steve. As father and son they frequently worked on electronics in the family garage, dismantling and rebuilding radios, televisions and a variety of other gear.
Steve Job's mom Clara worked an accountant and taught him to read long before he went to school. Clara Jobs was a payroll clerk for Varian Associates, one of the very first 'tech firms' in what eventually became known as Silicon Valley.
Steve was never a particularly good student in a formal academic setting. While attending Monta Loma Elementary school in Mountain View, he became known as more of a prankster. However, raw intellect allowed Steve to test so well that administrators wanted to skip him ahead to high school, however due in part to their promise that Steve would complete college, his parents declined that suggestion.
Jobs attended Cupertino Junior High and eventually Homestead High School in Cupertino, California. Jobs became high-school friends with Bill Fernandez, a neighbor who shared his interests in electronics. Fernandez then introduced Jobs to another, older computer whiz named Steve Wozniak (aka "Woz"). In 1969 Woz started building a computer board with Fernandez nicknamed "The Cream Soda Computer." The duo showed their work to Jobs around the same time that Jobs was frequenting after-school lectures given by tech department experts from the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California. Steve was later hired by Hewlett-Packard along with Wozniak as summer employees.
It was during this time that some have claimed Jobs saw the PARC work being done by the R&D division of Hewlett Packard which included the invention of essential home-computing innovations like the GUI (graphical user interface) and the tactile mouse controller now used with millions of computers globally. However, some have disputed that legend as a myth http://www-sul.stanford.edu/mac/parc.html.
Steve Jobs College Years
Steve Jobs did graduate from high school in 1972 and subsequently enrolled in Reed College of Portland, Oregon. Citing the very high cost of education at Reed was one of his reasons, Steve later dropped out of college. He disliked the notion that his parents Paul and Clara were working so hard and spending their life savings to support his collegiate endeavors. Jobs dropped out after six months over the following 18 months he dropped in on several creative classes, including a course on calligraphy as a non-matriculated student.
During this period of self-directed education, Steve slept on the floor of friends' dorm rooms, returned Coke bottles for the deposit money to afford food, ate free meals at a local Hare Krishna temple and made some of the defining discoveries that would propel him and Apple to success in later years. "If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts" said Jobs. Two features that gave it an immediate elegance of design which quickly set it apart from the functionality-driven goals of PC competitors.
Steve Jobs: Apple, NeXT And Pixar
It all began with Apple, when in the late 1970s, Steve Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak engineered the Apple II series while working out of Steve's garage. It became one of the first commercially viable home computers ever made and also quickly gained acceptance in the commercial marketplace. Using a tactile mouse and graphical user interface (GUI) led to the evolution of the Apple Lisa and, a year later, the wildly successful Macintosh computer.
The early years at Apple were undeniably successful and the venture quickly grew from the garage to a publicly traded company. However, a sagging period of growth and loss of market share prompted the Apple Board of Directors to make the idiotic decision to oust Steve Jobs in 1985. What happened next to Steve and to Apple stands as one of the most stark objective examples of Steve's prowess for innovation and business management.
Steve left Apple and after a short period of self-doubt he decided to 'stay foolish' by founding the NeXT computer company. NeXT was the first personal computer designed for niche marketing to a specific demographic of users. It was intended for higher-education and business markets specifically. The computer company did not become exceptional successful from a financial point of view, but it is credited with several innovations that were 'too far ahead of its time' for most buyers to comprehend. In that way, while the company never exceeded earnings goals, it still lives on today with many of its innovations later being incorporated into subsequent Apple products (after Jobs returned to power at his former company).
By 1996, Apple was floundering on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to deliver a new state of the art operating system. Gil Amelio of Apple turned to NeXT Computer, and their NeXTSTEP platform became the foundation for what would eventually be known as Mac OS X. Jobs returned to Apple as an 'adviser', and later took full control of the company as an interim CEO famously accepting a token salary of $1.00 per year. Under Jobs leadership Apple returned to profitability two years later by 1998 - and later expanded the company to become the most successful home electronics, cell phone and table computing provider of all time.
In 1986, just a year after leaving Apple, Steve also acquired the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, which was spun off under the brand name Pixar for an initial investment of five million dollars. Pixar did not blossom fully until the 1995 release of Toy Story (one of the most popular and highest grossing animated films of all time). Steve Jobs was credited in Toy Story as an executive producer.
Jobs continued to serve as CEO of Pixar long after he returned to Apple and owned 50.1% of the company as the majority shareholder until Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and Jobs received 7% of Disney shares and joined their Board of Directors as the largest individual shareholder.
Still unsatisfied with his early Apple II success, later Mac OS X success, success with NeXT and success with Pixar in an entirely different industry - Steve Jobs made his boldest bets on the evolution of music, entertainment and the Always On culture of modern society.
Steve's next phase of development for Apple lead to the candy colored iMac computers credited with making electronics a part of personal fashion, iTunes a new ecosystem for the purchase of music and video, the iPod which revolutionized portable media consumption, the iPhone which finally propelled the masses from telephones to smart mobile devices, and finally the iPad which proved tablet computing could be wildly viable commercially if done properly with a synthesis of design, form and function. That doesn't even begin to account for innovations in distribution with Apple Retail Stores and countless other creative solutions to problems that seem simple in hindsight but confounded competitors until Steve Jobs solved each of them.
It is important to note that any ONE of the above accomplishments would have been enough to mark their creator as an undisputed success. Nobody in modern history has changed the world as much as Steve Jobs with a string of innovative products that completely altered the way humans interact with media, information and each other. Beyond the billions of dollars and accolades experts bestowed upon him, Steve will always be remembered for the products he made and the concepts he espoused.
Steve Jobs Quotes
“It takes these very simple-minded instructions—‘Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number’––but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“I think it’s brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television — but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.” [Rolling Stone, Dec. 3, 2003]
“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build."
"When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. [Wired, February 1996]
“You know, my main reaction to this money thing is that it’s humorous, all the attention to it, because it’s hardly the most insightful or valuable thing that’s happened to me.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” [The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]
“I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.” [Wired, February 1996]
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
“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.”
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]
Steve Jobs Death - The Loss Of An Icon
Jobs died at his California home at 3:00 PM on October 5, 2011, due to complications from a relapse of previously treated islet-cell neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer resulting in respiratory arrest. He died with his wife, children and sister at his side.
Apple and Microsoft flew their flags at half-staff throughout their respective headquarters and campuses, and Bob Iger ordered all Disney properties, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland, to fly their flags at half-staff, from October 6 to 12, 2011.
His death was announced by Apple in a statement with a sincerity and simplicity that Jobs himself would likely have appreciated:
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today. Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve. His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts."
Steve Jobs Awards Accolades And Accomplishments
To list every award or accomplishment of Steve Jobs miraculous life would by a monumental task. Among the many accomplishments, the most noteworthy may be:
- Jobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985
- The Jefferson Award for Public Service also known as the Samuel S. Beard Award in 1987
- On November 27, 2007, Jobs was named the most powerful person in business by Fortune magazine.
- On December 5, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted Jobs into the California Hall of Fame
- In August 2009, Jobs was selected as the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers in a survey by Junior Achievement
- Named Entrepreneur of the Decade by Inc. magazine
- On November 5, 2009, Steve Jobs was named the CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine
- On November 2010, Steve Jobs was ranked No. 17 on Forbes: The World's Most Powerful People
- On December 2010, the Financial Times named Jobs its person of the year for 2010
- At the time of his death, Jobs was widely described as a visionary, pioneer and genius. Steve Jobs was characterized by many as the Thomas Edison of his time.
- On February 12, 2012, Steve Jobs was posthumously awarded a Grammy Trustees Award from the music industry
The list of awards will continue to grow for years, decades and perhaps centuries to come as the impact Steve Jobs has had on all of us continues to be felt from the devices, organizations and ideals he shared with us during his amazing lifetime.
We all miss your brilliance Steve, and we likely always will...