It’s April 1, 1976. A blustery spring breeze buffets the neighbourhood of Palo Alto, California, a booming technological breeding ground for like-minded computer wizards to share and express cutting-edge ideas. Two such wizards, 21-year-old Steve Jobs and 27-year-old Steve Wozniak, Homestead High schoolmates and business associates, are just signing the partnership agreement to an outfit that will one day become the most valuable company in the world. Apple Inc. is born.
Steven Paul Jobs, the man behind the black turtleneck sweater, sadly died on October 5, 2011, but his reign as ‘supreme-commanding officer’ at Apple is a fascinating story of ethereal highs and quivering lows. His unyielding will to achieve the impossible, dubbed his ‘reality distortion field’ by his employees, allowed Jobs to push the boundaries of creativity and modern technology, and breathe life into a company that revolutionised the entire digital-age industry.
After being adopted by his working-class parents, Jobs quickly came to realise that his superior intellect was in stark contrast to his mechanic father’s and bookkeeper mother’s. Nevertheless he adored them, and resented anyone referring to them as his “adopted parents”. In fact, it could be argued that Jobs owes his colossal success to his father, who was the first to introduce him to electronics.
“My dad did not have a deep understanding of electronics, but he’d encountered it a lot in automobiles and other things he would fix. He showed me the rudiments of electronics, and I got very interested in that.”
It was from here, in their Palo Alto home garage that Jobs, by now a Reed College dropout, coined his company’s name ‘Apple’, deeming it a warm and friendly alternative to the inauspicious imagery implemented by his competitors. He then began selling the first of his and Steve Wozniak’s creation, ‘Apple I’.
Trips to India, and experimenting with psychedelic drugs helped Jobs to gain a broader sense of the world. He once famously quipped that his rival, Bill Gates would be “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off on an ashram when he was younger.” This eastern influence became a large contributing factor in Jobs’ work and was a major part of his life; he remained a Buddhist until his death.
Apple grew steadily under Jobs’ authority, as did his wealth, which at age 25 had grown to $256 million. But a rift between Jobs and his CEO John Sculley over his treatment of Apple employees led to his ousting from Apple in 1985.
Understandably this hit Jobs hard, but he did not let it deter him. In 1986 he co-founded his hugely successful animated film production studio Pixar, maker of classic blockbuster Toy Story, which was the highest grossing film of 1995 generating $362 million worldwide.
Almost 10 years after his expulsion, Jobs was brought back to Apple as ‘de facto’ chief and instantly took charge. He dramatically changed the face of the company, incorporating his love of minimalist perfection in aesthetics to his most successful products: the iPod, iPhone and iPad, which have all contributed to Apple recently becoming the most valuable company in the world. Last year, Apple Inc. achieved over $108 billion return in sales and revenue.
Steve Jobs was an innovator unlike any the world has seen; he was a different breed of thinker, as his 1997 ‘Think Different’ campaign illustrates:
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”