Steve Jobs obituary

Steve Jobs has died at the age of 56. We look back on his life and remember the co-founder and chairman of Apple.

CNET staff
5 min read

Steve Jobs has died at the age of 56. Jobs was the charismatic mastermind behind Apple. With his leadership, the company went from a startup in his parents' garage to the highest-valued company in the world, introducing the idea that technology can be an object of desire.

Jobs' career began when he dropped out of Reed College on Oregon after a year, choosing instead to drop in on other classes at the campus. One was calligraphy. "It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating," Steve said in a famous speech to Stanford University graduates in 2005.

A decade later that course influenced his work on the Macintosh, which introduced beautiful typography to a computer for the first time. "And since Windows just copied the Mac," he later explained, "it's likely that [without this] no personal computer would have them."

Jobs' intuition for balancing technology and art would become the cornerstone of Apple's game plan, but his business savvy and sales ability would also pave his way to a rare fortune.

One example was in 1975. A 20-year-old Jobs was working for Atari, building a reputation for getting things done.

Bosses offered Steve a huge bonus if he could improve their flagship arcade game, Breakout. Jobs turned to his geeky friend Steve 'Woz' Wozniak, offering half the $700 fee if he could complete it in four days.

Apple began one year later, when Jobs found Woz building his own computer. He saw potential in the relatively small prototype, and suggested they go into business -- Woz as product designer, Jobs as salesman.

Everything was perfect; they were young, talented and living in Silicon Valley at just the right time. Computers were set to become the most profitable industry in the world. After one year they brought their flagship computer to market: the Apple II. It made them rich.

"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," he told the Smithsonian. "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 became a superstar in the 80s, but with the growing pressure of running a global business, he needed help. He turned to Pepsi boss John Sculley in 1983, famously asking, "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?"

Sculley accepted, but the relationship soured. Jobs was fired.

Being kicked out of the company he founded and lived for most of his adult life left him devastated.

But Jobs later admitted it was the best thing that ever happened to him. The weight of Apple's vast success had begun to starve his creativity, and being fired let him appreciate being a beginner again.

During this time he founded Pixar, which made the first ever computer animated film, Toy Story -- a genuine classic. When Disney bought the company for $7.4bn in 2006, Jobs became Disney's largest single shareholder.

At the same time, Jobs also ventured back into computing with a new company, NeXT. It built an operating system and Jobs later sold it to his old friends at Apple, who renamed it OS X.

But Apple had begun to flounder without its original visionary, and Jobs returned to lead it in 1997.

From that point on, every leading Apple product was given at least one killer feature to separate it from the copycat industry that would surround it.

The first iMac was a stylish jab at the beige computers of the day, with a striking range of colours. Jony Ive's refreshing design became a thing of mainstream technology lust -- you didn't need to be a geek to love computers any more.

Then the iPod and iTunes brought about a revolution in the music industry. In fact, it was so much more than just music -- it opened the door to digital products being a normal thing to buy.

The iPhone would be Apple's greatest coup. It brought touchscreen phones to the mainstream and Apple became a leading player in the mobile phone industry, out of nowhere. Suddenly, Apple could do anything.

The iPad could be the culmination of Jobs' genius. The product had been planned for decades: this concept video is from 1987. It shows how Apple wanted to produce a tablet with what would become FaceTime and Siri two decades ago, predicting it would be available in September 2011. 

"My model for business is The Beatles," Jobs said in 2003. "There were four guys who kept each others', kind of, negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. And that's how I see business. You know, great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."

Away from his work, Jobs was a family man, married in 1991 to Laurene Powell. After stepping down from Apple after his third medical leave in August this year, with Tim Cook taking his seat as CEO, a neighbour described his son's high school graduation.

"There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future, leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all."

Jobs' greatest words could be from that Stanford University speech he made in 2005.

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith... Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.

"As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011