Steve Jobs, the man who made computers simpler, easier, more fun and better looking, was born in 1955 San Francisco, when Eisenhower was president and the world’s population was less than three billion.
His mother, single, put him up for adoption — by a couple of modest means, Paul and Clara Jobs — when he was barely one week old. Out of high school he briefly attended Reed College University in Oregon and got into computers. After a spiritual trip to India he and his friend Steve Wozniak founded the company Apple in 1976.
Their first product together was a circuitboard kit, without even a case, keyboard or screen. Then came the first hot-selling PC with a mouse and graphical commands: the Apple Macintosh, named after a variety of real fruit. It read disks. It was affordable. It only had 128k of memory, and no hard drive — but the pitch was ‘don’t be a conformist’. It was 1984.
Jobs clashed with the Apple board of directors, largely over his near-irrepressible marketing approach, and found himself let go. He went and founded Next and bought Pixar, then the tide turned and he came back to Apple in 1996.
The iMac was one of the many hits that returned Apple to profitability with consumer charm. While many consumer targeted products failed, as the software quality, performance and variety increased and user-friendliness improved, stuff got lighter and prettier, while the Internet was taking off.
Though sometimes criticised for his aggressiveness, Jobs drove hard to make the range irresistibly i-catching: external data storage devices, ‘reinventing’ phoning, and many would say digital reading and audio-visual enjoyment; there was the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad en 2010. Last June Jobs made his last presentation of one of his technological babies, for remote storage and computing.
He has been quoted as saying he never did it for the money: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”