Steve Jobs Bio, Founder of Apple

  • January 13, 2020
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One of the co-founders of Apple Computers (now Apple Inc.) and a former CEO of Pixar, Steve Jobs has been one of the major American consumer technology visionaries since the late 1970s. In an industry that has so often leaned towards the utilitarian and the esoteric, he was a pioneer in user-friendly design.

Born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, and adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of nearby Mountain View, Steve Jobs became a computer hobbyist in the early 1970s. He and Steve Wozniak — a slightly older man Jobs had met while working a summer job at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto — were both members of the Homebrew Computer Club, which met to trade parts and information about building your own computers at home, in the days before personal computing became a major industry.

Before long, Jobs was hired as a technician at Atari, while he and Wozniak sold “blue boxes” on the side — a simple electronic device that bypassed the telephone switching system and allowed users to make free (and illegal) calls.

In the early days of computing, the line was often blurry between the law-abiding hobbyist and the hacker or phone phreak, and the Jobs-Wozniak blue box was designed with the help of tips from famous phreak John “Captain Crunch” Draper, who had used a whistle given away in cereal boxes to hack into telephone trunk lines.

After Wozniak helped Jobs solve a problem for Atari — greatly reducing the number of chips used in a circuit board for the video game Breakout — the two started Apple Computers together, intending to sell circuits.

Jobs was only 21 when Apple was incorporated, and the Apple I went on sale within a couple months — a circuit board for a keyboard-equipped personal computer to be assembled with its peripherals by home hobbyists.

The Apple II came out the following year, a thirteen hundred dollar computer with four kilobytes of RAM — a computer whose user-friendliness and graphics made Apple a major player in the newborn personal computer industry.

Floppy disk drives soon followed, and Microsoft-authored software, and in 1983, the Apple IIe, which was both cheaper and more powerful than its predecessors, positioning it to compete with IBM’s PC and PCjr.

The initial public offering at the end of 1980 had made Jobs a multimillionaire, and 1984 began with the company’s groundbreaking Super Bowl advertisement (titled “1984” and portraying competitor IBM as Big Brother) for its groundbreaking personal computer, the Macintosh.

Though PCs and PC-compatible machines continued to appeal to techies and hobbyists, Apple became the computer most commonly found in public schools, the computer that the children of the computer age grew up with. Jobs, meanwhile, moved on.

In 1986, two years after the introduction of the Macintosh, he sold most of his shares in Apple and founded NeXT Computer to produce what he called the “interpersonal” computer to follow the “personal computers” the late 70s and early 80s had introduced.

The NeXT was expensive but advanced, offering many of the functions that would become commonplace in the 90s — like embedded graphics and audio in email, at a time when most email was still exchanged on text-only terminals.

Though it never became a household name, NeXT helped to pave the way for the next decade of computing — one of the most iconic computer games, Doom, was developed on it, as was the World Wide Web — and when Apple bought the company out in 1996, it also hired Jobs as CEO.

The new Jobs era of Apple saw the conversion of NeXT operating system software into Mac OS X, the introduction of the affordable and stylish iMac, and the movement of the company into new technologies and services, like the generation-defining iPod music player and the recently introduced iPhone.

At the same time that he founded NeXT, Jobs also purchased The Graphics Group — which became Pixar Animation Studios — from Lucasfilm. Though it may not have seemed a significant purchase at the time, Pixar’s 1995 feature Toy Story, produced for Walt Disney Studios, inspired a new era of animated features.

The Walt Disney Company eventually purchased Pixar for $7.4 billion worth of Disney stock, ten years after Jobs’ initial $10 million purchase — making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder, owning 7% of the company.

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