High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts & Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales. support@ft. com to buy additional rights.
Steve Jobs stamped his mark on more than 35 years of personal computing history, from the rudimentary but ground-breaking Apple II to the sleekness of the touch-screen iPad. In the process, he helped to instill new digital tastes in a generation and was instrumental in the reshaping of digital media and entertainment.
Hailed as a technology visionary, Jobs also represented a new phenomenon in the 1970s: the businessman as a pop culture hero, as recognisable and charismatic as a film star. Almost from the founding of Apple, at the age of only 21, he was propelled into the public eye as the maverick face of a liberating new technology culture.
He was not an inventor in the classic sense and borrowed, bought or merely popularised many of the ideas most closely associated with his company’s success. But his genius at anticipating what millions of consumers would want next from their digital devices, and at shaping the conditions that would create feverish excitement for each successive Apple advance, were unparalleled.
Among these were the Apple II, the first practical personal computer with sales of 1m and the brainchild of Apple’s other, more technical co-founder, Steve Wozniak; the Apple Macintosh, which introduced screen pictures or icons to represent activities on a virtual desktop controlled by a mouse; and, later, a string of hits that included the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.
Steven Paul Jobs was born in Los Altos, California, in 1955, the illegitimate child of a Syrian professor of political science and a US speech therapist. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a hard-working couple of moderate means.
Though devoted to them, he always
retained a sense of baffled anger that he had been rejected by his natural parents, according to friends. He was renowned among people who worked closely with him as an inspiring but difficult leader who could deflate subordinates who did not live up to his demanding standards with withering anger. Jobs, a perfectionist when it came to his company’s products, insisted on having the final say over the technology, design and marketing of everything that was stamped with the Apple name.
His journey to the top of the computing industry began when he was in high school, working for the summer at Hewlett-Packard. There he met Steve Wozniak, an HP engineer who would be Apple’s other founder.
Jobs later dropped out of Reed College, Oregon, and in 1974 went to India in search of spiritual enlightenment. He once said that his rival, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, would have benefited from similar experiences. Jobs retained the 1960s bohemian spirit throughout his life, usually dressing in the “artist’s'” uniform of black turtleneck sweater and jeans.
Back home, he and Wozniak designed a simple computer, the Apple I, in Jobs’ bedroom. They sold the machine for $666 and took in $774,000 in sales. That was followed, in 1977, by the Apple II, which was aimed at ordinary consumers rather than just hobbyists and featured circuitry for connections to a colour monitor, a dramatic innovation at the time.
The success of the Apple II made Jobs a rich man. When Apple went public in 1980, its market value hit more than $1bn.