Steve Jobs was co-founder of Apple, along with Steve Wozniak, but he was also behind Pixar and the founder of NeXT, a computer platform development company that created the foundations for the Mac OS X operating system. He was an inventor, an entrepreneur and an incredibly successful businessman with a unique personality.

The story of Steve Jobs could start with the founding of Apple in 1976, but Jobs had many influences that made him the person he was, and without which Apple may never have happened. Jobs was born on 24 February 1955. His parents were graduate students Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Carole Schieble. Jobs’ parents later married but, due to their circumstances, gave baby Steve up for adoption.

Jobs was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs and was bought up in California. In an interview with Macworld’s sister title Computerworld back in 1995, Jobs spoke at length about his childhood.

“I was very lucky. My father, Paul, was a pretty remarkable man. He was a machinist by trade and worked very hard and was kind of a genius with his hands. He had a workbench in his garage and when I was about five or six, he sectioned off a little piece of it and said: ‘Steve, this is your workbench now’. And he gave me some of his smaller tools and showed me how to use a hammer and I saw how to build things.

Jobs (left) and Wozniak (right) check incoming components in the first Apple production facility, the garage of Jobs’ parents

“It really was very good for me. He spent a lot of time teaching me how to build things, take them apart and put them back together.”

Paul Jobs was transferred to Silicon Valley and in the interview Jobs speaks about growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley: “It was really the most wonderful place in the world to grow up.”

HP engineer Larry Lang lived close to the Jobs family. “I got to know this man, whose name was Larry Lang, and he taught me a lot of electronics. He was great,” said Jobs.

School board

Jobs was highly intelligent, but school bored him until, age 10, he was inspired to learn by a forth grade teacher: “I think I probably learned more academically in that one year than in my life. It created problems, though, because when I got out of fourth grade they tested me and they decided to put me in high school and my parents said ‘No’. Thank God.”

The man who went on to co-found Apple clearly felt in debt to the teacher who he believed saved him. According to the 1995 Computerworld interview he was sure that it was what saved him. “I’m 100 per cent sure that if it hadn’t been for Mrs Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I’d have absolutely ended up in jail. It could have been directed at doing something interesting that other people thought was a good idea or doing something interesting that maybe other people didn’t like so much.”

Apple’s Apple II quickly developed an appeal for being the ultimate text-based personal computer, but its advertising, like its interface, now seems very dated

It seems that even as a 10 year old, Steve Jobs had the capacity to become either one of the US’ biggest success stories or an evil genius.

Another influence on Jobs was the era he grew up in. Look though Jobs’ history and it’s clear that he strongly felt the influence of his time. In the Computerworld interview Jobs speaks about his memories of the assassination of John Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “I remember John Kennedy being assassinated. I remember the moment that I heard he’d been shot. I also vividly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I probably didn’t sleep for three or four nights because I was afraid that if I went to sleep I wouldn’t wake up. I guess I was seven years old at the time and I understood exactly what was going on. I think everybody did. It was a terror that I’ll never forget, and it probably never really left me. I think that everyone felt it at that time.”

Jobs went to college in 1972, but dropped out after a single term. However, Jobs continued to attend classes at the college, including a calligraphy course that he said lead to the multiple typefaces and properly spaced fonts available on the Mac.

Like his pop-idols, Jobs grew his hair, took LSD, travelled to India and came back a Buddhist, and worked with the confidence that anything was possible. Later, rather than dismiss the experiences of his youth, he synthesised and prioritised them. It was cool to be an artist. It was cool to be a non-conformist. It was cool to believe that nothing was impossible.

Jobs bought this experience and attitude, his interest in technology, and his extraordinary intelligence to Apple, the company he founded with friend Steve Wozniak in 1976.

The Woz

Jobs and Wozniak met in 1970 when Jobs got a part-time summer job working with the other Steve. Wozniak was five years older than Jobs, but shy while Jobs was outgoing. The two shared a love of technology and joined the Homebrew Computer Club, a regular meeting of engineering hobbyists who would trade parts and share information about computer construction.

Wozniak, it emerged, was an engineering genius who designed his own computer. Jobs took the prototype to a local computer store and sold 50 units and Apple was in business. This first prototype computer was the Apple I. 

Jobs and Wozniak co-founded Apple, along with Ron Wayne, in 1976. The prototype Apple I was followed by the Apple II, Apple’s first mass-produced product. It was released in 1977.

Designed by Wozniak, the Apple II featured a rugged plastic case, an integrated keyboard and power supply, support for colour displays, and a 5.25in floppy drive. The Apple II was a huge success, ushering in the personal computer era.

Apple tried to build on its success with an Apple III targeted at business users, but it was a failure. The story goes that Steve Jobs wanted the computer to run silently – so he ordered that it be built without an internal fan. Unfortunately, customers found that it overheated frequently.

Despite this, the company went public on 12 December 1980 and its IPO generated record-setting capital.

In exchange for $1 million of pre-IPO stock, Xerox gave Apple access to its PARC facilities, where Jobs and others saw the progress Xerox was making with the graphical user interface (GUI). This led to the Apple Lisa and the Mac.

Soon Apple’s board of directors felt that it was time to get a business-class executive to lead the company. Jobs asked Pepsi president John Sculley: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” Sculley joined Apple in 1983.

The Mac

The Macintosh introduced the principles that would come to guide the evolution of desktop computing for the next 20 years

This was the year before the Mac launched. The Mac is perhaps one of the things Jobs is most remembered for, but he didn’t create the Mac project – it was started by Jef Raskin in 1979. In fact, Jobs was initially working against the Mac team on the Lisa – but he took it over in 1981 and brought it to fruition. Jobs didn’t write the code or design the circuit boards, but he was the one who provided the vision that made it all happen. As original Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld wrote: “Steve already gets a lot of credit for being the driving force behind the Macintosh, but in my opinion, it’s very well deserved… the Macintosh would never have happened without him.”

Apple’s introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 introduced the graphical user interface to mainstream desktop computing. The Mac ran on a 32-bit processor (compared to the more usual 16-bit processors for other PCs at the time) and had 128Kb of memory.

The Mac’s impact wasn’t just felt by people who bought it in the 1980s, though. In hindsight, it redefined what a computer was. Microsoft introduced its Windows program as a reaction to it. By 1995, Windows had duplicated Apple’s graphical interface. Essentially, every personal computer in existence now follows most of the paradigms introduced by the original Mac more than a quarter of a century ago.

Jobs was also a driving force behind the famous 1984 television commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, that debuted during the Super Bowl in January 1984.