Jobs, Steven (1955- ) American Computer Engineer, Entrepreneur (Scientist)

Steve Jobs helped revolutionize contemporary culture by introducing the personal computer— first the Apple I and II, and then the Macintosh. He thus aided in the paradigm shift from the industrial age to the information age, as society based itself less on material goods and more on intellectual property. Later in his career, Jobs acted as CEO of Pixar, a studio that transformed the movie industry through computerized animation.

Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955. He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, a machinist at Spectra-Physics, and raised in Mountain View, California. When Jobs reached adolescence, the family moved to Los Altos, California, where he attended Homestead High School. During a freshman year field trip to a Hewlett-Packard computer factory in Palo Alto, he saw his first desktop computer. He subsequently telephoned William Hewlett personally for assistance with a school project, a bold move that resulted in a job with HP that summer.

There, he met a fellow worker named Stephen wozniak, who had dropped out of the University of California at Berkeley. Woz, as he was called, had developed a "blue box" that erased long-distance telephone charges, which Jobs helped to market. He graduated from high school in 1972 and matriculated at Reed College in Oregon to study physics and literature. He dropped out after only one semester, preferring to hover in the counterculture on the periphery of campus.

In 1974, he landed a job as a video game designer for Atari. After a trip to India in search of spiritual enlightenment, Jobs returned to California and started attending meetings of Woz-niak’s Homebrew Computer Club. Still working for HP, Wozniak was also designing a personal computer, which he constructed in Jobs’s garage. Jobs marketed the machine to a local electronics equipment seller, who ordered 25. The pair sold their prized possessions—Jobs a Volkswagen microbus and Woz an HP scientific calculator— to raise $1,300 in start-up funds to found a computer company, which they named Apple after Jobs’s favorite fruit, which he picked as an orchard worker in Oregon.

Jobs continued to market the Apple I computer, which sold for $666 in 1976. Over the next year, the company sold $774,000 worth of Apple I computers. The next year, Woz designed the Apple II computer, and Jobs encouraged independent programmers to create software for it, resulting in the development of 16,000 programs. Within three years, the Apple II earned $139 million, representing growth of 700 percent. In 1980, the underwriting firm Hambrecht & Quist, in collaboration with Morgan Stanley, took Apple public at $22 a share. The price shot up to $29 the first day of trading (valuing Jobs’s holdings at $165 million), and by December 1982, the share price was about $30. That year, Apple sales reached $583 million, up 74 percent over the previous year. Apple’s compounded growth from 1978 through 1983 was 150 percent per year.

International Business Machines introduced its first personal computer in 1981 and grabbed almost one-third of the market within two years by dominating the corporate segment. Apple responded by developing the Macintosh, a project that Jobs oversaw personally. "We have thought about this very hard and it would be easy for us to come out with an IBM look-alike product, and put the Apple logo on it, and sell a lot of Apples. Our earning per share would go up and our stock holders would be happy, but we think that would be the wrong thing to do," said Jobs. Instead, he conceived of the introduction of the Mac as a revolutionary act, emphasizing its user-friendly interface as a kind of democratizing influence on the world of computers.

Apple launched the Mac in 1984 with a commercial broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday, evoking drab Orwellian imagery that exploded symbolically with the arrival of the Macintosh. A piece of marketing genius, the spot lodged itself in the cultural consciousness and fueled sales. And the Macintosh itself achieved its revolutionary goal of becoming a "mass market appliance," establishing the personal computer as a practical tool accessible to mainstream users.

However, internal strife plagued Apple, as Jobs’s hired gun, president John Sculley (formerly president of the Pepsi-Cola Company), railroaded Jobs to the sidelines in an attempt to discipline the company known in the industry as "Camp Runamok." Jobs responded by resigning in late 1985 to start up an educational hardware and software firm, the NeXT Company. Sculley complicated the transition by suing Jobs for stealing Apple research and employees, which Jobs settled out of court.

Although the hardware division of NeXT flopped, its software division inadvertently flourished. Out of pragmatism, not by design, Jobs chose Mach software from Carnegie Mellon University, which ran object-oriented programming (OOP), as the operating system for NeXT hardware. OOP turned out to be the perfect choice, as it allowed programmers to lift preexisting chunks of code in creating their own software, thus saving the effort of generating new code from scratch. Just as Jobs had revolutionized personal computing, so too did he revolutionize corporate and academic computing, by accident.

In 1986, Jobs bought a majority stake in Pixar, which Lucas Films (owned by George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars series and the Indiana Jones movies) spun off. Three years later, Pixar won an Academy Award for its animated short, Tin Toy. In 1989, he won the Software Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he married Laurene Powell, with whom he has two children.

In the late 1990s, Pixar hit stride by creating three of the top six grossing domestic animated films ever—Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), and Toy Story II (1999). Jobs contributed to these achievements by overseeing Pixar’s partnership with Walt Disney Pictures, one key to to success. In 1996, Jobs returned to Apple as its CEO and began to split his time between the two enterprises.

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