This week Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 55. His death came as a shock to me. I knew that he stepped down from leadership at Apple because he felt he could no longer participate on a daily basis, but my assumption was that Jobs was going to go on to enjoy a retirement and consult with Apple’s leadership over the next couple of years. The fact that Jobs only stepped down when death appeared imminent seems to illustrate the passion that he had for the company he helped found.
Since Jobs’ death, the plaudits and retrospectives have been pouring in from all quarters. It was difficult to watch video of Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ partner in Apple, praising Jobs and breaking down after the conclusion of the interview. While we can’t equal the hard work that many journalists have done in attempting to capture the story of Jobs’ life, I feel that as a technology and geek blog we couldn’t let this event pass by without adding our perspective. I don’t hope to be exhaustive here (a biography of Jobs is due October 24), I wanted to try to provide a substantial examination of Jobs’ career and the impact that he had on technology and culture. I also wanted to provide examples of how Jobs’ products and concepts impacted my life.
Finally I am hoping to provide an honest portrait of the man and avoid pure hagiography. There have been many superlatives applied to Jobs, particularly in the period following his departure from Apple. Yet for all the praise, Jobs was not a perfect individual. Some said he was difficult to work with; others have described him as impulsive, blunt, paranoid, or a megalomaniac. The term “reality distortion field” was coined to describe Jobs’ ability to influence beyond what seemed rationally possible. He initially refused to acknowledge that he was the father of his first daughter Lisa. Stories float around about how Jobs fired people in elevators and about how the development of the Macintosh at Apple was run like an internal war against other Apple employees. We also have Jobs’ dismissive emails about consumer complaints: his famous “don’t hold it that way” comment about the iPhone antenna issue.
So let’s take a look at Jobs’ evolution from a California hippie to leader of the most successful technology company in the world. This retrospective draws from many sources that I will do my best to credit, mainly via source links at the end of each article.