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Steve Jobs Biography

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Credit: Apple

Steve Jobs was a computer designer, executive and innovator, as well as an all-around role model for many people in both their businesses and their personal lives. As the cofounder of Apple Computers and former CEO of Pixar Animation Studios, he revolutionized the computer and animation industries, amassing a fortune worth $10.2 billion at the time of his death. Jobs passed away on Oct. 5, 2011, in Palo Alto, Calif., at age 56 after battling pancreatic cancer for eight years.

Born in San Francisco, Jobs was adopted by an encouraging and loving family. He developed an interest in computers and engineering at a young age, inspired by his father's machinist job and love for electronics. Growing up south of Palo Alto, Jobs was bright beyond compare — his teachers wanted to skip him ahead several grades to high school, which his parents declined. In high school, Jobs met his future partner, Steve Wozniak, whom he bonded with over their love for electronics and computer chips.

After dropping out of college in the first semester, Jobs explored his spiritual side while traveling in India. It was with this spiritual enlightenment that Jobs' work ethic and simplistic view toward life was developed. "That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity," he said. "Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

Jobs began to move mountains at age 21, when he and Wozniak started Apple Computers in the Jobs family garage. To fund their venture, Jobs sold his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak sold his scientific calculator. This ended up being a good investment. Prior to Apple's rise, computers were massive, expensive, and not accessible by the everyday American. With Jobs heading up marketing and Wozniak in charge of technical development, Apple sold consumer-friendly machines that were smaller and cheaper, at only $666.66 each. The Apple II was even more successful than the first model, and sales increased by 700 percent. On its first day of being a publicly traded company in 1980, Apple Computer had an estimated market value of $1.2 billion.

Leadership style

But this success was short-lived, even with the praise for Jobs' latest design, the Macintosh. IBM was Apple's stiffest competition, and they began to surpass Apple sales. After a falling out with Apple's CEO, John Sculley, Jobs resigned in 1985 to follow his own interests. He started a new software and hardware company, NeXT, Inc., and he invested in a small animation company, Pixar Animation Studios.

Pixar became wildly successful thanks to Jobs' tenacity and evolving management style. "Toy Story," Pixar's first major success, took four years to make while the then-unknown company struggled. Jobs pushed its progress along by encouraging and prodding his team in critical and often abrasive ways. While some found his management style caustic, he also developed loyalty from many team members. "You need a lot more than vision — you need a stubbornness, tenacity, belief and patience to stay the course," said Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. "In Steve’s case, he pushes right to the edge, to try to make the next big step forward."  

Jobs emphasized the importance of teamwork to his employees. Though he made the final decision on product designs, he knew that the right people would be a company's greatest asset. "That’s how I see business," he said. "Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people." [Related: 7 Lessons from Random Steve Jobs Encounters]

At the same time, Jobs knew that he had to be the best leader possible to his teams. According to Jobs' work mantra and ethic, innovation is what distinguishes a leader and a follower. "Be a yardstick of quality," he said. "Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected." Thanks to Jobs' expectation of high quality, almost every product he's turned out has been a huge success among consumers and businesses.

While Pixar succeeded, NeXT, trying to sell its own operating system to American consumers, floundered. Apple bought the company in 1997, and Jobs returned to Apple as CEO. Working for an annual salary of $1 a year, Jobs revitalized Apple, and under his leadership, the company developed numerous innovative devices — the iPod, the iPhone, iTunes and the iPad. They revolutionized mobile communications, music and even how numerous industries, including retail and healthcare, carried out their everyday business operations. He offered a unique intuition when developing these products. When asked what consumer and market research went into the iPad, Jobs replied, "None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want." [Related: Steve Jobs' Greatest Technology Contributions]

Jobs used his experiences, such as growing up in the San Francisco area in the '60s and his world travel, to shape the way he designed the products that made Apple synonymous with success. He criticized the sheltered lives that characterized many in the computer industry. "[They] haven't had very diverse experiences," he said. "So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have."

In 2004, Apple announced that Jobs had a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer. It was this brush with death that helped Jobs focus his energy on developing the Apple products that rose to such popularity in the 2000s. "Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important," he said. Though he was ill, it was during this time that Apple launched some of its biggest (and successful) creations. iTunes became the second biggest music retailer in America, the MacBook Air revolutionized laptop computing, and the iPod and iPhone broke sales records, while changing the way users consumed content and communicated with each other.

Before his death, Jobs commissioned a $138 million yacht, named Venus. Designed to be minimalist, much like Jobs' technological creations, Venus offers structural walls of glass designed by the chief engineer of the Apple stores. Between 230 and 260 feet (70 and 79 meters) long, Venus boasts teak decks and seven 27-inch iMacs on board. Though he was aware he might pass away before the boat was finished, Jobs continued to design Venus up until the end. "I know that it’s possible I will die and leave [my wife] Laurene with a half-built boat," he said. "But I have to keep going on it. If I don’t, it’s an admission that I’m about to die."

Jobs once said, "I want to put a ding in the universe." After starting personal computers revolution, launching the smartphone craze, changing the age of computer animation, and making technology popular and accessible, he certainly made more than just a ding. [Video: Steve Jobs Most Memorable Moments]

Steve Jobs quotes

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful — that's what matters to me."

"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. 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. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

"Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them."

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