By: Victoria Yates
Steve Jobs was born on the 24th of February 1955 in San Francisco, California. His birth mother, Joanne Schliebe, was unwed at the time (though she later married his father, Abdulfattah Jandali and gave birth to his sister, the writer Mona Simpson). Given the stigma of unwed mothers in the 50s she gave Steve up for adoption on grounds that his adoptive parents were college graduates. Although his eventual adoptive parents, Paul and Clara Jobs were not graduates the clause was dropped on the promise that he would be sent to college when of age. Whilst in school he attended after-school lectures at the Hewlett-Packard Company where he was soon hired and worked with Steve Wozniak as a summer employee (the co-founder of Apple).
He attended Reed College, an expensive and renowned liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. Although he dropped out 6 months in, Jobs continued to attend certain lectures while staying on his friend’s dorm room floors. In 1974 he got a job as a technician at Atari, which he used to save towards a philosophical and enlightening trip to India. On his return he had shaved his head and wore Indian clothing. During this time Jobs also apparently experimented with psychedelics (the apple logo was originally multi-colored referencing the hippy roots of the company).
Jobs returned to his job at Atari but became interested in the work of his friend Wozniak, viewing his creation as a feat of engineering. He became increasingly involved in Wozniak’s project until, after a few months, he convinced Wozniak that they should found a company so that the product could be sold to other hobbyists who were not interested in building their own machine but who would love to use one for programming. On April 1st 1976 Apple was born.
The name was chosen as they couldn’t think of anything particularly preferable at the time and it was Job’s favourite food (being a fruitarian). The pair only had a capital investment of $1000 between them at the start of the company. They made they first sale a couple of weeks later to the new founder of The Byte Shop computer stores who wanted to buy 50 at $500 each with cash on delivery. The company got an injection of capital from Mike Markkula, a retired Intel executive with an interest in the emerging personal computer business. There was no credible alternative to the Apple II and the company made $47 million in revenues in its second year. By 1978 the company was worth $3,000,000, the same year that the Apple III was in production.
The IBM PC came on the scene in 1981 and it was around this time that Jobs started to clean up his appearance and showed himself as a business minded individual, wearing suits occasionally and no longer being a regular at the Los Altos Zen Center. At 24 he was a millionaire after the sale of $7 million worth of Apple stock. In 1985 he choose to start a new company (NeXT) which would target the higher education market. He described his split from Apple in the following way, “My relationship with the company is like a first love. I’ll always remember Apple in the same way any man remembers the first woman he’s fallen in love with.” Apple were uncomfortable with the level of knowledge that both Jobs and those he had brought over to NeXT had of the Mac’s newest project and attempting to sue his new company. This ended quickly and was seen as a somewhat ridiculous move. The media did however bring attention to a new company that, without even having a business plan, had brought fear to Apple. As Jobs put it “It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300+ people couldn’t compete with 6 people in blue jeans.”
The NeXT cube was described by Jobs as an “interpersonal computer” and although dismissed by many as cost prohibitive those that could afford it enjoyed many experimental new technologies it offered such as the built in Ethernet port. The NeXTMail system was also one of the first to support universally visible embedded graphics and audio within emails. NeXT was bought by Apple in 1997 for $429 million, a move that brought Jobs back to the company he had co-founded. He quickly became the interim CEO following a loss of confidence from the board in his predecessor. NeXT technology worked its way into Apple products, notable NeXTSTEP which evolved into Mac OS X.
Jobs became permanent CEO in 2000. He drove sales with the introduction of products such as the iMac and the iPod, underpinned by the powerful branding and appealing designs of Apple products. With the iPod and iTunes he has arguably changed the music business forever. Jobs was also the CEO of Pixar (Toy Story) before it was bought by Disney, and is the larger individual shareholder of Disney.
He is often cited for his powerful salesmanship and his forward thinking. He is quoted as saying “there's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love - 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will."
Jobs is living testimony to what a series of great ideas and real personal drive can do - and where original thought and commitment can lead a company.