Steve Jobs at Apple: A retrospective (pictures)

On news of Steve Jobs' death today, we take a look back at some of the big moments in his tenure at the iconic electronics company he co-founded.

Jon Skillings
A born browser of dictionaries and a lifelong New Englander, Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET. He honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS to 5G, James Bond, lasers, brass instruments and music streaming services.
Jon Skillings
1 of 27 Apple

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away today, Apple announced late this afternoon.

Here, we take a look back at some of the big moments in his tenure at the iconic electronics company he co-founded.

As the 20th century segued into the 21st and as we moved ever deeper into the Digital Age, few individuals personified or drove the era in the way that Steve Jobs did. Apple, over the course of more than three decades largely under his leadership, defined and redefined personal computing with a startling number of iconic devices, from the Apple 1 and the original Macintosh to the iPod and the iPad.

Editor's note: This story was originally published the day Steve Jobs resigned from Apple and has been updated to reflect news of his death.

2 of 27 James Martin/CNET

Onstage at WWDC 2007

In recent years, Jobs regularly took to the stage at Apple events to reveal the latest fervently awaited gadget or software upgrade from the company. This image shows him at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 11, 2007, where he told software developers what they could expect at that time from the iPhone, just over two weeks before the landmark smartphone first went on sale.
3 of 27 James Martin/CNET

1976: Jobs and Wozniak

At the unveiling of the Apple iPad in January 2010, Jobs reflected for a moment on the birth of his company, known early on as Apple Computer Co. and now as just Apple Inc. The black-and-white photo from 1976 shows Jobs (right) with co-founder Steve Wozniak.

For a detailed timeline on Apple from 1976 to 2006, see "Apple turns 30."

4 of 27 Courtesy of the Computer History Museum

1976: Apple 1 manual cover

The image on the cover of the technical manual for Apple's very first computer suggests not circuit boards and CRT monitors, but science, knowledge, and inspiration. That's no coincidence. "From almost the beginning at Apple we were, for some incredibly lucky reason, fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time. The contributions we tried to make embodied values not only of technical excellence and innovation--which I think we did our share of--but innovation of a more humanistic kind," Jobs said in an oral history interview he gave to the Smithsonian Institution in 1995.

"I actually think there's actually very little distinction between an artist and a scientist or engineer of the highest caliber," he continued. "They've just been to me people who pursue different paths but basically kind of headed to the same goal, which is to express something of what they perceive to be the truth around them so that others can benefit by it."

5 of 27 Courtesy of the Computer History Museum

1977: Ad for Apple II

It was a year later, with the Apple II, that the company really took off. "Unlike the earlier Apple I, for which users had to supply essential parts such as a case and power supply, the Apple II was a fully realized consumer product. Design and marketing emphasized simplicity, an everyday tool for home, work, or school," says a write-up on the Web site of the Computer History Museum.
6 of 27 Courtesy of Time

Feb. 1982: Time cover

In February 1982, Jobs made his debut on the cover of Time magazine as the face of a group that the newsweekly's cover story called "America's risk takers"--entrepreneurs who included Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and FedEx founder Frederick Smith. At the time, Apple had more than 20 percent of the worldwide market for personal computers (tied with Tandy Corp.'s Radio Shack) and had to reckon with the debut of the IBM PC.

"Overseeing Apple's growth has kept Jobs too busy to spend the millions he earned when the company went public 14 months ago. He took a few days off last year to go backpacking in Yosemite National Park. Except for some Japanese woodprints and a Maxfield Parrish painting...his unpretentious Tudor-style home in Los Altos Hills is largely bare because he has not decided how to furnish it," Time wrote of the 26-year-old Jobs, whom it described as a "boyish-looking fellow with [a] stringy mustache."

7 of 27 Screenshot from YouTube video by Jonathan Skillings/CNET

Jan. 1984: Macintosh demo

Two days after Apple made advertising history with its landmark "1984" TV ad in January of its namesake year, Jobs went on stage before an enthusiastic crowd to introduce the Macintosh. Clearly relishing his role as impresario, he pulls the computer out of a bag and runs a screen demo that begins with the words "Macintosh. Insanely great!" After a brief tour of capabilities such as word processing, chess, and graphics--see the screenshot here for an example--the computer speaks aloud, reciting words that also appear on screen:

"Hello, I'm Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I'd like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met with an IBM mainframe. NEVER TRUST A COMPUTER YOU CAN'T LIFT. Obviously I can talk, but right now I'd like to sit back and listen. So it is with considerable pride that I introduce a man who's been like a father to me...STEVE JOBS."

8 of 27 Scott Ard/CNET

1984: Apple Mac, Apple Lisa

This was the state of the art for the personal computer in 1984, on display earlier this year at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. (from left to right): an IBM PC, an Apple Mac, and an Apple Lisa.
9 of 27 Playboy/Screenshot by Jonathan Skillings, CNET

Feb. 1985: Playboy interview

A year after the introduction of the Macintosh and on the cusp of his 30th birthday, Jobs was the subject of a long, wide-ranging interview in Playboy. "He is on a mission," the magazine writes, "preaching the Gospel of salvation through the personal computer--preferably one manufactured by Apple. He is an engaging pitchman and never loses an opportunity to sell his products, eloquently describing a time when computers will be as common as kitchen appliances and as revolutionary in their impact as the telephone or the internal-combustion engine."

That vision of a better tomorrow had its roots in a simpler, boyish yearning.

PLAYBOY: What was your introduction to computers?

JOBS: ... The first computer I ever saw was at Hewlett-Packard. They used to invite maybe 10 of us down every Tuesday night and give us lectures and let us work with a computer. I was maybe 12 the first time. I remember the night. They showed us one of their new desktop computers and let us play on it. I wanted one badly.

PLAYBOY: What was it about it that interested you? Did you have a sense of its potential?

JOBS: It wasn't anything like that. I just thought they were neat. I just wanted to mess around with one.

10 of 27 Brooke Crothers

1989/90: The Next computer

From this vantage point in history, it may seem as though Jobs and Apple had always been inextricably joined. In 1985, however, Jobs found himself on the wrong end of a corporate power struggle with then CEO John Sculley, and soon was out the door in an exile that would last a decade. But he quickly moved on. That same year, he started Next Computer, and a year later, co-founded another company, one that would also go on to do rather well for itself in a different field: Pixar.

It was with Next that Jobs reasserted his place in the high-tech industry, unveiling the company's high-end desktop computer at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco in October 1988. "To many of us gathered in the hall," William J. Hawkins wrote in a Popular Science story, "Steve Jobs' revolutionary new computer," in January 1989. "Jobs represents American entrepreneurship at its best--he's an incurable romantic nobody wants to see fail."

Funding for Next came from billionaire H. Ross Perot, as well as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities. But the germ of the initiative came from Jobs' reading on microbiology and a chat with Paul Berg, who'd won a Nobel prize in biochemistry, Hawkins recounts. "To define the next wave in computers we collaborated with the most adverse and demanding group of computer users in the world," Jobs said in the Davies Hall unveiling, referring to two dozen college professors. "What we learned ... was that people in higher education want a personal mainframe."

This photo from a vintage brochure shows the Next computer circa 1990.

11 of 27 Ina Fried/CNET

1991: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

In August 1991, Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates shared a Fortune magazine cover (seen here in a copy on display in the Microsoft Visitor Center museum a few years back) as the magazine's editors pondered "The Future of the PC."
12 of 27 Courtesy of Time

Aug. 1997: Time cover

In Jobs' first months back at Apple in 1997, the company was at a low ebb. Apple was struggling to maintain a consistent profitability, and in July 1997 its shares reached a 10-year low. Oracle's Larry Ellison had considered buying the company.

Then an unexpected helping hand reached out: Microsoft. In August 1997, while Apple was mulling its options to replace Amelio as CEO, Bill Gates announced that his company would invest $150 million in Apple and would develop versions of its Microsoft Office software suite, Internet Explorer browser, and other software for the Macintosh. The two long-time antagonists also said they would work to settle a dispute over whether Microsoft's Windows operating system infringed on any Apple patents.

And thus came Jobs' second appearance on the cover of Time magazine, which wrote of his comeback under the headline "Steve's Job: Restart Apple".

"Understand," wrote Time, "the idea of Jobs returning to Apple is something akin to that of Luke Skywalker returning to fight what, until last week, cultists regarded as the evil empire. Gates, by comparison, was perceived as a dweeb Darth Vader, the billionaire bad guy who usurped the idea of the Macintosh's friendly point-and-click operating system for his now dominant Microsoft Windows."

And why did Jobs go back? "I wouldn't be honest if some days I didn't question whether I made the right decision in getting involved," Jobs told Time. "But I believe life is an intelligent thing--that things aren't random."

13 of 27 Courtesy of Apple

1998: Apple iMac all-in-one debuts

Clearly reveling in the moment, Jobs unveils the original iMac all-in-one design in 1998, arguably the most significant computer that Apple introduced in the 1990s.
14 of 27 Courtesy of Time

Jan. 2002: Time cover: iMac G4 unveiled

The iMac G4, which debuted in January 2002, was one of Apple's most striking designs. "At best, people thought it was rather odd," Apple design guru Jonathan Ive told CNET at the time. "I actually think this is less shocking than the [original] iMac was."

According to Time magazine's account of the development the new machine and Jobs' discussions with Ive, Jobs said, "It should look like a sunflower."

15 of 27 Eric Charbonneau/BEImages/Walt Disney Pictures/PRN/Newscom

May 2003: Finding Nemo

In the past decade and a half, Pixar Animation Studios has built a reputation for exceptional filmmaking. It grew out of Jobs' $10 million purchase in 1986 of the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm. Here we see Jobs at the May 2003 premiere of "Finding Nemo" at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood in May 2003, along with (from left to right) Pixar's John Lasseter and Disney's Richard Cook and David Stainton. Pixar says "Finding Nemo" took in $70.2 million that opening weekend, setting a record for the U.S. debut of an animated feature. The movie would go on to win the Academy Award for Animated Feature Film.

In January 2006, Disney will buy Pixar for $7.4 billion, with Jobs becoming Disney's largest shareholder.

16 of 27 Screenshot from CNET TV video

October 2003: 'Hell froze over'

Apple's iTunes Music Store came on the scene in April 2003 with a library of 200,000 tunes, including exclusives from 20 artists, including Bob Dylan and U2. "We were able to negotiate landmark deals with all of the major labels," Jobs said at the launch. "There is no legal alternative that's worth beans."

At the time, iTunes songs were available only for Macs running the OS X operating system and for iPods. In October of that year, Apple introduced the Windows version of the iTunes software (which had been out since 2001 for Apple gear) and the iTunes store, a foray into the Microsoft Windows environment that Jobs commemorated with the phrase "Hell froze over."

17 of 27 Screenshot by Greg Sandoval/CNET

Dec. 2003: Rolling Stone interview

In an interview with Rolling Stone that appeared in December 2003, Jobs offered a "lucid and careful contemplation of the music industry," said CNET's Greg Sandoval in assessing Apple CEO's thoughts five years later. Sandoval was "bowled over by the preciseness of Jobs' assessment of what the future held for digital rights management, music subscription services, the four largest recording companies, and Apple."

Said Jobs in the Rolling Stone interview: "Apple has a core set of talents, and those talents are: we do, I think, very good hardware design; we do very good industrial design; and we write very good system and application software. And we're really good at packaging that all together into a product....We're the only people left in the computer industry [who] do that. And we're really the only people in the consumer electronics industry [who] go deep in software in consumer products. So those talents can be used to make personal computers, and they can also be used to make things like iPods."

Asked if he had wrung his hands over the decision to bring iTunes to Windows, Jobs told the music magazine, "I don't know what hand-wringing is."

18 of 27 Ina Fried/CNET

Oct. 2005: Jobs on stage

Jobs strides purposefully in front of an audience in San Jose, Calif., in October 2005 as he introduces a version of the iPod that can play video as well as music.
19 of 27 Ina Fried/CNET

October 2005: Playing with iSight

This playful series of self-portraits comes from that same October 2005 event, at which Apple also unveiled the iMac G5. Jobs uses his own visage to show off the capabilities of Apple's iSight software running on the new iMac.
20 of 27 Marguerite Reardon/CNET

May 2006: Manhattan Apple Store

The Apple Store chain has become a fixture of the retail landscape since the first stores opened in May 2001, in McLean, Va., and in Glendale, Calif. ("Why these two?" Jobs said. "They were the first two that were ready.") Perhaps the most striking of the stores, which now number in the hundreds, is the flagship venue on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan with its distinctive glass cube entrance. Jobs is seen here in May 2006 at the grand opening of the Fifth Ave. store, which he helped to design.
21 of 27 Declan McCullagh/CNET

Jan. 2007: The iPhone arrives

The Apple iPhone, officially unveiled at the Macworld trade show on January 9, 2007, was arguably the single most anticipated gadget in the history of the high-tech and consumer electronics industries. Jobs had the rhetoric to match that: "Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is." And it was more than just a phone: "iPhone is like having your life in your pocket," Jobs told the Macworld crowd, calling it "the ultimate digital device."

Jobs also revealed that after three decades, Apple Computer no longer thought of itself as merely a computer company.

"Today," he said, "we've added to the Mac and the iPod; we've added Apple TV, and now iPhone. And the Mac is the only one you think of as a computer...[Therefore] we are announcing today that we are dropping the 'Computer' from our name, and we will be known as Apple Inc."

22 of 27 Dan Farber/ZDNet

May 2007: Gates and Jobs at D5

For almost as long as there's been a personal-computing industry, there's been an epic clash between Apple and Microsoft. The company's leaders were no strangers to throwing barbs at the other side. But in May 2007, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got together for a rare--and amicable--joint appearance at the D5 technology conference.

Among the kind words exchanged, Jobs said he admired Microsoft's ability to partner with other companies, and compared that with Apple's approach.

"Because Woz [Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak] and I started the company based on doing the whole banana, we weren't so good at partnering with people," Jobs said. "I think if Apple could have had a little more of that in its DNA, it would have served it extremely well...I don't think Apple learned that until...a few decades later."

23 of 27 James Martin/CNET

June 2007: Demonstrating Leopard

At Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2007, Jobs sits down on stage to do a hands-on demo--in this case, of the Core Animation feature in the Leopard version of Mac OS X, the sixth major release of the operating system.
24 of 27 James Martin/CNET

Jan. 2010: The iPad, unveiled

The Apple iPad has set off yet another sea change for the computer industry. Here, at its January 2010 introduction, Jobs shows off the tablet in a cozy tableau.
25 of 27 Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Feb. 2011: Obama meets tech leaders

In February 2011, Jobs was among a select group of technology executives who met for dinner with President Obama to discuss the state of education and the economy in the United States. In this picture, he's in the black shirt with his back to the camera, to the left of the president. (Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is to the president's right.) Among the others at the dinner were Google's Eric Schmidt, Cisco Systems' John Chambers, Oracle's Larry Ellison, and Yahoo's Carol Bartz.
26 of 27 James Martin/CNET

March 2011: iPad 2 launch

Although he was officially on a medical leave that started in January 2011, Jobs made sure that he was on hand for the unveiling of the iPad 2 two months later in early March. In concluding the event, he revisited a theme that stretched back to the early days of Apple. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. And nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices."

Here, Jobs mingles with friends and colleagues after the iPad 2 event.

27 of 27 James Martin/CNET

2008: WWDC

Steve Jobs at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2008.

From his 1995 oral history interview with the Smithsonian Institution: "I grew up in Silicon Valley. My parents moved from San Francisco to Mountain View when I was five. My dad got transferred and that was right in the heart of Silicon Valley so there were engineers all around. Silicon Valley for the most part at that time was still orchards--apricot orchards and prune orchards--and it was really paradise. I remember the air being crystal clear, where you could see from one end of the valley to the other...It was really the most wonderful place in the world to grow up."

More Galleries

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone

18 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work
iphone 15 in different color from an angled view

Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work

21 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos
2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

14 Photos