Saying Goodbye to an Apple Icon

Steve Jobs, technology innovator, dies

October 06, 2011

Apple CEO Steve Jobs shows off the new Apple iPhone in 2007 at the MacWorld Conference in San Francisco

After a quarter-century of pushing and defining boundaries in computing and personal-use technology, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on Wednesday, October 5. He was 56 years old. Since 2004, Jobs had been struggling with a rare form of cancer.

Current Apple CEO Tom Cook summed up the feelings of many people when he sent a recent email to Apple employees. “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor,” Cook wrote. “Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

A Booming Business

In recent years, the Apple brand that Jobs led has been associated with huge success, and huge sales. Six weeks after the attacks on 9/11, Jobs talked about a new MP3 player created by the company, the now well-known iPod. The company introduced the iTunes Music Store in 2003, allowing consumers to inexpensively purchase and download music. It took Apple just five years to pass Wal-Mart as the country’s largest music retailer.

A memorial created for Steve Jobs at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California
A memorial created for Steve Jobs at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California

A true breakthrough happened in 2007, when Apple showed off its iPhone. This device was essentially a computer that you could carry in your pocket. “Every once in awhile, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Jobs said about the iPhone. Consumers agreed. Many camped out in front of Apple stores in order to be the first to buy the new device. Four years later, the company was selling more than 220,000 iPhones a day.

In 2010, Apple got into the tablet computer industry with the iPad. The company sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010, which was well beyond what industry analysts predicted. These popular gadgets have made Apple a top company. Throughout his career, Jobs went beyond merely creating new products. His greatest skill was to envision and then sell to the public entire industries.

A History of Success

Jobs was born in San Francisco, California, in 1955. He grew up in Silicon Valley—a nickname for the area that is home to many technology companies—and started Apple with friend Steve Wozniak when he was 21 years old. Their first product, Apple I, didn’t do much in the market, but 1977’s Apple II, which combined Wozniak’s technical skills and Jobs’s design ideas, became a bestseller. 

In 1979, Jobs stopped by Xerox's PARC research lab, in Palo Alto, California. He saw a prototype for a computer that featured the “mouse” controller that is now commonly used. Back at Apple headquarters, he asked his team to make their own versions of this now-standard tool. "Within 10 minutes . . . it was clear to me that all computers would work this way someday," Jobs later said.

The mouse was part of Apple’s strong 1984 product, the Macintosh. The Macintosh computer cost a whopping $2,495, but was by far the most advanced personal computer released at that point in history. The mouse was a huge part of that success, and Jobs admitted as much. “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” he said in a 1996 interview.

Steve Jobs, Apple Computer’s chairman of the board, introduces the Macintosh computer in 1984.
Steve Jobs, Apple Computer’s chairman of the board, introduces the Macintosh computer in 1984.

Some Famous Failures

Not everything Jobs touched was an instant success, or even a success at all. Apple’s first model to showcase the mouse technology failed. Called the Lisa, the computer’s $10,000 price tag was too much for most consumers.

Then there was the departure from Apple. During slow sales in 1985, company president John Sculley deprived Jobs of his decision-making power. Jobs decided to quit the company.

While away from Apple, Jobs pooled money with the company Canon, as well as former presidential candidate Ross Perot, to found the computer company NeXT. The NeXT system looked cool and was full of innovations, but it couldn’t find a home in the marketplace. It’s products were too expensive, and few of them sold.

But Jobs didn’t let setbacks stop him. When he returned to Apple, in 1997, Jobs found success again with the iMac, a computer that featured a transparent outer case design. In 1998, Apple sold about 2 million iMacs. A year later, the iMac was America’s best-selling computer.

A Fitting Farewell

Steve Jobs used to always prefer talking about Apple rather than about his personal life. In 2005 though—shortly after learning that he had cancer—Jobs did talk about life, and how he thought it should be lived. "Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice,” he said in a graduation speech to students at Stanford University. “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." Sounds like the advice of an innovator.

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