Steve Jobs: Computer Geek Turned Pop Icon

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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His wardrobe of black mock turtle-neck shirts and blue jeans sets him apart from other executives.

He is known for super-sized announcements about the latest in must-have consumer technology.

And people around the world, from technology buffs to music fans, hang on his every word.

The news late Wednesday that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is stepping down due to health concerns rattled stock investors and sparked concerns about the future of the company behind the iPhone, the iPad and Mac computers. Despite the concerns, some technology industry analysts say the impact of Jobs' announcement has less to do with real concerns about his company and more to do with how people feel about a man largely credited with changing the way consumers view technology.

Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, growing up in a part of the U.S. state of California that later became known as Silicon Valley, a center of the U.S. technology industry.

In 1974, Jobs left his job as a technician with a video game maker and traveled to India to find spiritual enlightenment. When he came back, he and friend Steve Wozniak began work in Jobs' garage, developing the first Apple computer.

The two founded the Apple computer company. In the next few years, Jobs continued to develop computers for Apple, focusing on what is known as a graphical user interface – a way for people to use computers more easily, without having to rely on text-based codes and commands.

The American public's first hint of what was to come came in 1984, when Apple computer ran a television ad during the Super Bowl . The ad featured a lone runner fleeing from guards and throwing a hammer through a large screen, shattering it. It then announced the company would soon introduce its Macintosh computer, promising it would change the way people used computers.

The Macintosh delivered on that promise, using icons and the first commercially successful computer mouse to help users get from program to program, becoming the model for future computers.

Jobs left Apple a year later following a dispute with the company's other top executives. His first post-Apple venture, a computer software firm called NeXT, never became a commercial success, and Apple eventually bought it. But his other endeavor turned into a huge success.

Jobs bought a computer animation studio – Pixar, which went on to make some of the most popular computer-animated films, including Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo.

He returned to Apple in 1997, after the company had gone to the edge of collapse. Under his leadership, Apple reinvented itself, introducing a new line of computers known as iMacs.

Then in 2001, Jobs introduced a device that would change the way many people use technology. Jobs said at the time the iPod – a small digital music player – was like having “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

The iPod soon incorporated pictures and video and touch-screen technology. It was followed by the iPhone and mostly recently the iPad, a touch-screen based tablet computer.

Each product generated greater public anticipation and attention, as well as a great focus on Jobs. And despite attempts by other companies to introduce similar products, Apple continues to dominate sales.

Jobs has rarely spoken publicly, with the exception of Apple events, and most of his focus has been on Apple's products. But he gave some insight into himself during a 1998 interview with USA Today.

Jobs told the interviewer the Pixar character he most identified with was Flik, an idealistic ant in the movie A Bug's Life.

In the movie, many of Flik inventions fail. But rather than give up, he keeps on trying and eventually saves his ant colony from an army of grasshoppers.

Industry analysts will likely disagree over what the future holds for Apple without its founder, but many will agree Jobs forever changed the way technology is developed and sold – with a focus on the consumer.