“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world? [Jobs inviting an executive to join Apple]”
Steve Jobs was born in San Francisco, California, on February 24, 1955, to two University of Wisconsin graduate students who gave him up for adoption. Smart but directionless, Jobs experimented with different pursuits before starting Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak in 1976. Apple’s revolutionary products, which include the iPod, iPhone and iPad, are now seen as dictating the evolution of modern technology, with Jobs having left the company in 1985 and returning more than a decade later. He died in 2011, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California, to Joanne Schieble (later Joanne Simpson) and Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, two University of Wisconsin graduate students who gave their unnamed son up for adoption. His father, Jandali, was a Syrian political science professor, and his mother, Schieble, worked as a speech therapist. Shortly after Steve was placed for adoption, his biological parents married and had another child, Mona Simpson. It was not until Jobs was 27 that he was able to uncover information on his biological parents.
The infant was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs and named Steven Paul Jobs. Clara worked as an accountant and Paul was a Coast Guard veteran and machinist. The family lived in Mountain View, California, within the area that would later become known as Silicon Valley. As a boy, Jobs and his father worked on electronics in the family garage. Paul showed his son how to take apart and reconstruct electronics, a hobby that instilled confidence, tenacity and mechanical prowess in young Jobs.
While Jobs was always an intelligent and innovative thinker, his youth was riddled with frustrations over formal schooling. Jobs was a prankster in elementary school due to boredom, and his fourth-grade teacher needed to bribe him to study. Jobs tested so well, however, that administrators wanted to skip him ahead to high school—a proposal that his parents declined.
A few years later, while Jobs was enrolled at Homestead High School, he was introduced to his future partner Steve Wozniak, who was attending the University of California, Berkeley. In a 2007 interview with PC World, Wozniak spoke about why he and Jobs clicked so well: “We both loved electronics and the way we used to hook up digital chips,” Wozniak said. “Very few people, especially back then, had any idea what chips were, how they worked and what they could do. I had designed many computers, so I was way ahead of him in electronics and computer design, but we still had common interests. We both had pretty much sort of an independent attitude about things in the world. …”
In 1974, Jobs took a position as a video game designer with Atari. Several months later he left the company to find spiritual enlightenment in India, traveling further and experimenting with psychedelic drugs. In 1976, when Jobs was just 21, he and Wozniak started Apple Computer. The duo started in the Jobs family garage, funding their entrepreneurial venture by Jobs selling his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak selling his beloved scientific calculator.
Jobs and Wozniak are credited with revolutionizing the computer industry by democratizing the technology and making machines smaller, cheaper, intuitive and accessible to everyday consumers. Wozniak conceived of a series of user-friendly personal computers, and—with Jobs in charge of marketing—Apple initially marketed the computers for $666.66 each. The Apple I earned the corporation around $774,000. Three years after the release of Apple’s second model, the Apple II, the company’s sales increased by 700 percent to $139 million. In 1980, Apple Computer became a publicly traded company, with a market value of $1.2 billion by the end of its very first day of trading. Jobs looked to marketing expert John Sculley of Pepsi-Cola to take over the role of CEO for Apple.
Departure from Company
However, the next several products from Apple suffered significant design flaws, resulting in recalls and consumer disappointment. IBM suddenly surpassed Apple in sales, and Apple had to compete with an IBM/PC-dominated business world. In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh, marketing the computer as a piece of a counterculture lifestyle: romantic, youthful, creative. But despite positive sales and performance superior to IBM’s PCs, the Macintosh was still not IBM-compatible. Sculley believed Jobs was hurting Apple, and the company’s executives began to phase him out.
Not actually having had an official title with the company he co-founded, Jobs was pushed into a more marginalized position and thus left Apple in 1985 to begin a new hardware and software enterprise called NeXT, Inc. The following year Jobs purchased an animation company from George Lucas, which later became Pixar Animation Studios. Believing in Pixar’s potential, Jobs initially invested $50 million of his own money in the company. The studio went on to produce wildly popular movies such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles; Pixar’s films have collectively netted $4 billion. The studio merged with Walt Disney in 2006, making Steve Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder.
Despite Pixar’s success, NeXT, Inc. floundered in its attempts to sell its specialized operating system to mainstream America. Apple eventually bought the company in 1996 for $429 million. The following year, Jobs returned to his post as Apple’s CEO.
Just as Steve Jobs instigated Apple’s success in the 1970s, he is credited with revitalizing the company in the 1990s. With a new management team, altered stock options and a self-imposed annual salary of $1 a year, Jobs put Apple back on track. His ingenious products (like the iMac), effective branding campaigns and stylish designs caught the attention of consumers once again.
In 2003, Jobs discovered that he had a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare but operable form of pancreatic cancer. Instead of immediately opting for surgery, Jobs chose to alter his pesco-vegetarian diet while weighing Eastern treatment options. For nine months, Jobs postponed surgery, making Apple’s board of directors nervous. Executives feared that shareholders would pull their stock if word got out that their CEO was ill. But in the end, Jobs’ confidentiality took precedence over shareholder disclosure. In 2004, he had a successful surgery to remove the pancreatic tumor. True to form, in subsequent years Jobs disclosed little about his health.
Apple introduced such revolutionary products as the Macbook Air, iPod and iPhone, all of which have dictated the evolution of modern technology. Almost immediately after Apple releases a new product, competitors scramble to produce comparable technologies. Apple’s quarterly reports improved significantly in 2007: Stocks were worth $199.99 a share—a record-breaking number at that time—and the company boasted a staggering $1.58 billion profit, an $18 billion surplus in the bank and zero debt.
In 2008, iTunes became the second-biggest music retailer in America—second only to Walmart, fueled by iTunes and iPod sales. Apple has also been ranked No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s list of “America’s Most Admired Companies,” as well as No. 1 among Fortune 500 companies for returns to shareholders.
Early in 2009, reports circulated about Jobs’ weight loss, some predicting his health issues had returned, which included a liver transplant. Jobs had responded to these concerns by stating he was dealing with a hormone imbalance. After nearly a year out of the spotlight, Steve Jobs delivered a keynote address at an invite-only Apple event September 9, 2009.
In respect to his personal life, Steve Jobs remained a private man who rarely disclosed information about his family. What is known is Jobs fathered a daughter with girlfriend Chrisann Brennan when he was 23. Jobs denied paternity of his daughter Lisa in court documents, claiming he was sterile. With Chrisann struggling financially for much of her life, Jobs did not initiate a relationship with his daughter until she was 7, but when she was a teenager she came to live with her father.
In the early 1990s, Jobs met Laurene Powell at Stanford business school, where Powell was an MBA student. They married on March 18, 1991, and lived together in Palo Alto, California, with their three children.
On October 5, 2011, Apple Inc. announced that its co-founder had passed away. After battling pancreatic cancer for nearly a decade, Steve Jobs died in Palo Alto. He was 56 years old.
Books and Biopics
A number of books have been written on Jobs’ life and career, including an authorized 2011 general biography by Walter Isaacson, a 2012 young adult biography by Karen Blumenthal, and yet another title, 2015’s Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. The Isaacson work was critiqued for the depiction of its main subject by Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, who succeeded Jobs.
Biopics inspired by the computer icon’s life have been released as well—namely the critically panned Jobs (2013), starring Ashton Kutcher, and Steve Jobs (2015), starring Michael Fassbender and directed by Danny Boyle.