Steve Jobs is a man who hardly needs an introduction. After all, he’s arguably the most important inventor and innovator this country has seen since the days of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Like Edison with the light bulb and Ford with the automobile, Jobs transformed society when he helped to bring about the home computer revolution starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For those born after this revolution it’s hard to imagine what life must have been life before Jobs–and even five years since his passing, it’s hard to imagine another figure who continues to exert as much influence on our daily lives as he does.
Jobs was born on this date in 1955 in San Francisco to a father who was a Syrian immigrant from a prominent family and a mother of Swiss and German heritage. Once the child was born he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, both of whom had blue-collar backgrounds and no college education between them. Growing up in the Bay Area, Jobs was a brilliant yet unfocused youth who had a tough time relating to his peers or getting along with authority figures. Nonetheless his facility with electronics and interest in the arts led him to cultivate a circle of friends that included Steve Wozniak, later his fellow Apple co-founder, and Chrisann Brennan, later the mother of Jobs’s first child.
In 1974, Jobs reconnected with Wozniak when both began working for the video game developer Atari. In that same year Jobs left the company for a time in order to “find himself” in India, where his lifelong study of Zen Buddhism began. Upon returning from India, Jobs continued working with Wozniak on Atari projects while simultaneously developing the “blue box” prototype that led to the invention of the Apple I computer. In 1976, Jobs, Wozniak and Ronald Wayne formed the Apple Computer company in the garage of Jobs’s Los Altos home. Much like Edison’s Menlo Park, that humble garage would become one of the most well-known invention sites in American history.
Between 1976 and 1985, Jobs and Wozniak laid the groundwork for the home computer revolution to come. The two worked during this time to make computers less cumbersome, more sophisticated and affordable enough to be purchased by everyone. While Wozniak handled the nuts-and-bolts aspects of making personal computers possible, Jobs handled the marketing and promotion side of Apple. Jobs raised Apple’s valuation and made it a publicly traded company. However, later faulty product rollouts and consumer dissatisfaction motivated Apple executives to force Jobs out of the company he helped found. This setback forced Jobs to retrench during the late 1980s and much of the 1990s. Among his accomplishments during this period was the creation of NeXT, a software company later absorbed by Apple, and an animation company that would eventually become Pixar. Shortly after Apple bought NeXT in 1996, Jobs reclaimed the role as Apple CEO. And the rest, as the saying goes, was history.
The successes of Jobs’s second tenure, which lasted from 1997 until his death in 2011, are far too many to summarize here. During the course of his tenure as CEO and chief spokesman, Apple has become the most valuable company in the world, with a current market capitalization of over $625 billion. Jobs’s outsized role in both the tech world and in culture was such that the world stopped when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Despite struggling with the disease for the rest of his life, Jobs was still able to bring innovations like the Macbook Air, iPod and iPhone to a gleeful public.
By the time of his death in 2011, his signature look of black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and sneakers had become as iconic as his products. Jobs has been immortalized in numerous biographies, histories, documentaries and feature films; he’s been the subject of four films and portrayed by actors as diverse as Noah Wyle, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Long and Michael Fassbender. In short, Steve Jobs is a seminal figure that helped change the world just as previous innovators like Edison and Ford had, and as such deserves to be remembered today on what would’ve been his 62nd birthday.