By David Sheff
Feb 1, 1985
If anyone can be said to represent the spirit of an entrepreneurial generation, the man to beat for now is the charismatic cofounder and chairman of Apple Computer, Inc., Steven Jobs. He transformed a small business begun in a garage in Los Altos, California, into a revolutionary billion-dollar company-one that joined the ranks of the Fortune 500 in just five years, faster than any other company in history. And what’s most galling about it is that the guy is only 29 years old. Jobs’s company introduced personal computers into the American home and workplace. Before the founding of Apple in 1976, the image most people had of computers was of machines in science‐fiction movies that beeped and flashed or of huge, silent mainframes that brooded ominously behind the closed doors of giant corporations and Government agencies. But with the development of the transistor and then the microprocessor chip, it became possible to miniaturize the technology of the computer and make it accessible to personal users. By the mid-Seventies, a starter computer kit, of interest mainly to hobbyists, was available for about $375, plus assorted parts.
In a valley south of San Francisco already known for a concentration of electronics firms and youthful start-up companies, two friends who shared a penchant for mischief and electronics set out to create a small computer of their own. Jobs, then 21, the adopted son of a machinist, had taken a job designing video games at Atari after dropping out of Reed College, while Stephen Wozniak, 26, worked as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, one of the largest firms in the area known as Silicon Valley. In their spare time, the friends designed and built a makeshift computer‐‑a circuit board, really‐which they whimsically called the Apple I. It didn’t do much, but when they found that they had stacked up orders for 50 of the contraptions, it dawned on Jobs that there might be an actual
grown-up market for personal computers. Wozniak’s interest was primarily technical; Jobs set about making the computer accessible to people. Together, they added a keyboard and memory (the capability of storing information) to the Apple I, and Wozniak developed the disk drive (a device to read and store information permanently) and added a video terminal. Jobs hired experts to design an efficient power supply and a fancy casing and, thus, the Apple II was born‐‑along with an entire industry. Apple’s rise was meteoric. From sales of $200,000 that first year in Jobs’s garage (the Silicon Valley version of Lincoln’s log cabin), the company grew into a giant firm with 1.4 billion dollars in revenues in 1984. Its founders became multimillionaires and folk heroes. Wozniak, who effectively retired from Apple in 1979 to go back to college and to sponsor music festivals, had relatively little to do after his creative contribution to the technology. It was Jobs who stayed on to run the company, to see 70 percent of home and school computers bear the Apple mark, to fend off efforts within Apple to unseat him and, most of all, to do battle with IBM when Big Blue, as the 40-billion-dollar colossus is unaffectionately known, decided to move in on the personal-computer business. With an estimated net worth of $450,000,000, mostly in Apple stock, Jobs was by far the youngest person on Forbes’s list of richest Americans for several years running. (It is also worth noting that of the 100 Americans named by Forbes, Jobs is one of only seven who made their fortunes on their own.