This Week in History: Steve Jobs


“Born in 1955, Steve Jobs was orphaned as an infant. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, and grew up in the California suburbs of Mountain View and Los Altos, which would later become the heart of Silicon Valley. While in high school, Jobs was hired as a summer employee at the Hewlett-Packard electronics firm in Palo Alto. There he met Stephen Wozniak (1950-), an engineering whiz kid. Wozniak was in the process of developing his “blue box,” an illegal device that allowed a user to make free long-distance calls. Jobs helped Wozniak sell his device, forging a partnership that would, several years later, change the face of the home-computer industry….

“Unlike Wozniak, Jobs was not interested in building computers; he wanted to market them. Jobs convinced Wozniak to help him create their own personal computer, one that was smaller, cheaper, and easier to use than what was currently available to consumers. In Jobs’s bedroom and garage they designed and built their prototype. With $1,300 (earned from selling Jobs’s Volkswagen microbus and Wozniak’s scientific calculator), they started their own company. Wozniak quit his job at Hewlett-Packard to become vice president in charge of research and development. Jobs came up with the name Apple, in honor of the summer he worked in an Oregon orchard.

The first computer the pair designed and marketed, the Apple I, sold for $666 in 1976. It was the first single-board computer with built-in circuitry allowing for direct video interface, along with a central ROM, which enabled it to load programs from an external source. The Apple I earned Jobs and Wozniak $774,000. A year later, the Apple II was launched with a simple, compact design like the Apple I, plus a color monitor. Within three years, the Apple II’s sales had grown by 700 percent, to $139 million.

In 1980 Apple made its move on Wall Street, its stock rising to $29 on the first day of trading, bringing the company’s value to $1.2 billion. Business was good for the two Apple founders, but the fledgling computer company was not without competition. The corporate might of IBM, with its two-year-old personal computer (PC), was beginning to get the edge with consumers. Jobs realized that to compete against this industry Goliath, Apple would have to make its operating system compatible with that of IBM.

Enter the Macintosh, a powerful new computer with 128K of memory–twice that of the PC. The Mac, as it became known, had a 32-bit microprocessor , which outperformed the PC’s 16-bit version. Not only was it faster, it was more versatile and easier to use than the PC, offering–as its print campaign suggested—a computer “for the rest of us.” The Macintosh was introduced to the world on Super Bowl Sunday 1984 in an Orwellian-themed commercial that promised a revolutionary new wave in personal computing. The world was watching, and the Macintosh caught on like wildfire.

But just as sales of the Macintosh were taking off, president John Sculley (1939-) persuaded Apple’s board of directors that Jobs’s emphasis on technical performance over consumer needs was hurting the company, and Jobs was sent off to a remote office that he termed “Siberia”–far from the inner workings of the company he had created. In September of 1985 Jobs resigned as chairman of Apple…

Jobs rejoined Apple in 1996 and immediately helped rejuvenate the company. He took over immense amounts of creative control, requiring the final say in product design. In 1998, along with the slogan “Think Different” the iMac was revealed to the public. The computer boasted a sleek design that coupled a powerful computer housed in a colorful case. Jobs presented Apple’s iBook, another Apple entry into the portable computer market, at the Mac World convention in July 1999. The iBook was a clam-shaped laptop that was available in bright colors and included Apple’s AirPort technology….

Next came the iPod, which revolutionized both the computer and music industries. Introduced in 2001, the iPod was a small digital music player that was able to hold at least 1,000 songs. Other personal computer makers soon tried to imitate the iPod’s success, though the Apple product dominated the industry early on. In 2003, iTunes was put on the market. Using iTunes, customers could buy songs that could be downloaded onto an iPod or personal computer. It also allowed novices to burn their own CDs. Another offering was an application that enabled users to make their own DVD discs at home….

In January of 2007, at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Jobs announced that Apple would debut the iPhone, a high-tech cell phone that could also access the Internet and play songs downloaded from iTunes, that June. Jobs also announced that Apple Computer Inc. was shortening its name to Apple Inc., presumably to signify that inventions such as iTunes and the iPhone, rather than Macs, had become its signature products. The iPhone generated huge early buzz, though some industry observers argued that it faced hurdles because of its high cost ($499 to $599), and because it would be available only through Cingular Wireless….Jobs’s belief in the iPhone was confirmed when the device sold an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 in the first weekend alone. Reviews were similarly positive. By September 2007, sales of the iPhone increased when Apple reduced the price from $599 to $399, a move meant to help reach Job’s goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. In September 2007, Apple also introduced the newly redesigned line of iPods to similar acclaim. While also well received, the iPods were overshadowed by the hype over the iPhones. In 2008, Jobs and Apple introduced a faster cheaper iPhone, the iPhone 3G, which sold for only $199.

The continuing success of Apple was overshadowed, however, by Jobs’s health problems. When he introduced new Apple products in the fall of 2008, he was quite gaunt and many were worried about the state of his health and its effect on his company. In January 2009, Job announced that he had a treatable hormone imbalance. Although he vowed to run Apple while receiving treatment, a few weeks later he stated that he was going to take a six-month medical leave of absence from his company because his health problems were more complex than originally believed. Chief operating officer Timothy D. Cook (1960-) took over Apple during this time period. By early June 2009, Jobs was sending some emails to Apple employees and it was revealed that he had undergone a liver transplant in April. His prognosis was considered excellent and Jobs returned to part-time work at Apple by July 2009. Still, many investors and observers were concerned that Jobs’s health eventually would force him to leave Apple, creating many questions about the company’s future without him….

Jobs’ constant innovations led Business 2.0 to name him the fifth most important leader in business in 2006. It called him “easily the greatest marketer since P.T. Barnum” and a muse for innovators. “Is there anyone in American business today,” the magazine asked, “whose style, creativity, and pugnacious genius are more celebrated?” Although market challenges mounted to existing multi-touch-interface products, Apple’s profits soared as it became one of the world’s highest valuation companies. In 2011, Apple vied with Exxon Mobile as America’s highest valuation company. Jobs’ personal wealth consistently placed him in the ranks of the world’s wealthiest individuals.”


Source Citation

“Steve Jobs.” Computer Sciences. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2013. Biography in Context. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.


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