Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011


"There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very beginning. And we always will."

This morning, a bouquet and an apple with a bite missing were placed outside the Apple store on Regent Street. It was the first of many tributes to Steve Jobs, who has died aged 56.

Alongside Steve Wozniak, Ronald Wayne and Mike Markkula, Jobs founded Apple Inc. in 1976. Long before pads, pods and phones, Apple had a mission to develop the first practical and affordable home computer.  It was in 1984 that an emotional Jobs announced the birth of the Macintosh - the first commercially successful small computer with a graphic interface.

All was not perfect, however. Jobs was often described as an erratic manager and a huge slump in computer sales, less than twelve months after the launch of first Mac, prompted an internal power struggle at the firm. This concluded in Steve losing his role as head of the Macintosh division. He later said his sacking from Apple initiated one of the most creative periods of his life.

1990 saw Jobs introducing what he described as the world's first interpersonal computer. With a multimedia email system, NeXTcube had the ability to add voice, image, graphics and video to email. "Interpersonal computing is going to revolutionise human communications", was Jobs' pitch.  Simultaneously, he focused on the look of his hardware. This was the start of the design ethic for which his innovations would become famous.  NeXTcube came in a magnesium case rather than the oatmeal plastic which enveloped most terminals at the time. With some irony, NeXT was soon acquired by Apple.

When Tim Berners Lee devised the World Wide Web, it was a NeXT machine he used as its first server.

It is perhaps not universally known that Steve Jobs didn't head just one company that changed the world but two. In 1986 he bought The Graphics Group from Lucasfilm. It wasn't particularly profitable until a contract was sealed with Disney. The business would work on a series of digitally animated feature films. Changed its name to Pixar, the venture's first major release was Toy Story (Jobs enjoyed a credit as an Executive Producer). Cinema would never be quite the same again. By 2006, Jobs would be The Disney Corporation's majority shareholder with 7% of its entire stock.

When Apple bought out NeXT, it brought Steve Jobs back to company he had founded and in 1998 he took over as interim CEO, tasked with returning the now ailing operation to profit. Rootless projects were dumped and the NeXT platform was developed further to become the first version of OSX the now famous Mac operating system. The iMac, iPhone, iPod and iPad were now waiting in the wings to make the company the astonishing industry we recognise today.

As with almost all highly intelligent, creative and successful individuals, there is little doubt Jobs could be a tricky customer. He certainly had an impressive ego and unwavering vision which could bring him into conflict with colleagues and contemporaries. It was once suggested he would have been the ideal King of France, such were his demands and domineering personality traits. But, of course, whatever his idiosyncrasies, without his inventiveness and ability to imagine products which would revolutionise the way we communicate, listen to music, design and work we would never have the Apple products which are now so ubiquitous and loved by their users.

Steve Jobs achievements are unique. Although his expertise was in digital technology, he had a creative, artistic heart. Never accepting a device or system that simply functioned, he understood that successful, technical applications needed ergonomic appeal, had to be attractive as well as effective. In the same way physicists perceive beauty in mathematics, Steve Jobs sought aesthetic perfection in machinery. Legions of Mac disciples swear he found it.

To lure John Sculley from Pepsi-Cola  as Apple's CEO, Jobs asked "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

It was no empty invitation.

In mid-2004, Jobs announced he had been diagnosed with a cancer in his pancreas but opted not to accept medical intervention for nine months, preferring a special diet before eventually undergoing an operation to remove the tumour. 

Five years later, Steve received a donated liver but January this year saw Apple announcing he was taking a medical leave of absence. He was not to return to the company he founded all those years ago and which now makes and distributes some of the most astonishing devices we have ever known.

He is survived by his wife, son and three daughters.

Magnus Shaw - copywriter, blogger and broadcaster



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