6:44pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Remembrances

Apple Visionary Steve Jobs Dies At 56

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 1:01 pm

Steve Jobs — the man who brought us the iPhone, the iPod and the iMac — has died. The co-founder of Apple was 56 years old. Jobs had been battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer for years.

"It boggles the mind to think of all the things that Steve Jobs did," says Silicon Valley venture capitalist Roger McNamee, who worked with Jobs.

McNamee says that in addition to introducing us to desktop publishing and computer animated movies, Jobs should be credited with creating the first commercially successful computer.

"Any one of those would have qualified him as one of the great executives in American history," McNamee says, "the sum of which put him in a place where no one else has ever been before. To me he is of his era what Thomas Edison was to the beginning of the 20th century."

Jobs was just 21 when he co-founded Apple Computer in his garage in Los Altos, Calif., in 1976. The following year, when Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, released the compact Apple II, most computers were big enough to fill a university basement or came from do-it-yourself kits for hobbyists with soldering irons.

With sound and cutting-edge color graphics, Apple II was the first blockbuster desktop computer. Users could hook it up to their TV sets to play games, and its spreadsheet program made it popular with small businesses.

"It made Apple the biggest computer manufacturer in the nascent computer industry," says Leander Kahney, author of Inside Steve's Brain.

But in 1981, Apple got its first taste of serious competition, when IBM released its own personal computer. IBM had the advantage of a well-known, trusted name, and Jobs — a California boy — loathed the kind of conformist East Coast culture it represented.

So he countered with the Macintosh, the first computer to feature a mouse, pull-down menus and icons — thus eliminating the command-line interface.

"Jobs' idea was that we'll make it easy enough that anybody can do it ... a grandmother, a kid, people who don't have any experience," Kahney says. The Mac was an example of the kind of product that would come to define Jobs' entire career: easy-to-use computers.

That's the message Jobs sent to millions when he released the Mac in 1984. In an ad that aired once during the Super Bowl, a woman dressed in brightly colored shorts runs into a room of gray-looking people and throws a sledgehammer at a screen where Big Brother — read IBM — is talking. The minute-long reference to George Orwell's 1984 became one of the most famous television commercials of all time.

It also illustrated Jobs' belief that computers were tools to unleash human creativity. In an interview for the 1996 PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds, Jobs said, "Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world."

In many ways Jobs was the poet of the computer world. He'd gone to India and become a Buddhist. He took LSD and believed it had opened his mind to new ways of thinking.

But Jobs' iconoclastic ideals did not always make him easy to work with.

"He was just a terrible manager and a terrible executive," says Trip Hawkins, the marketing director of Apple until 1982. "At that point in time I never really thought that he could be a CEO."

Jobs was eventually fired in a 1985 boardroom coup led by John Sculley — the man Jobs himself had hired to be CEO of Apple. But Jobs was driven to make computers vehicles for creativity, and after he left Apple, he purchased a little-known division of Lucas film and renamed it Pixar.

In 1995, Pixar released the first animated feature to be done entirely on computers. That film, Toy Story, was a huge success, and Pixar followed it with other big hits including Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

But Apple didn't exactly thrive in the years after Jobs' departure. With less than 5 percent of the computer market in its possession and analysts predicting the company's demise, the board invited Jobs to come back and run his old business.

In 1998, as interim CEO of Apple, Jobs introduced the iMac and once again helped remake the computer industry. According to venture capitalist McNamee, the iMac was the first computer made to harness the creative potential of the Internet.

"The iMac reflected the transition of consumers from passive consumption of content to active creation of entertainment," McNamee says. "People could write their own blogs, make their own digital photographs and make their own movies. Apple made all the tools to make that easy and they did at a time when Microsoft just wasn't paying attention."

Three years after the iMac, Jobs announced Apple's expansion into the music industry with a breakthrough MP3 player — the iPod.

"This is not a speculative market," he said as he introduced the iPod in 2001. "It's a part of everyone's life. It's a very large target market all around the world."

The iPod was a classic Jobs product — easy to use and nice to look at. Apple sold tens of millions of iPods, and the iTunes store became the No. 1 music retailer.

Six years later, Apple released the iPhone — a device whose elegance and user friendliness blew other phone/music players out of the water.

In 2010, Apple created yet another groundbreaking device with the introduction of the iPad. With its color touch-screen, the tablet gave users the ability to surf the Web, send e-mail, watch videos and read e-books.

Book publishers weren't the only ones to embrace the new tablet. A host of magazines, newspapers and broadcast news organizations, including The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and NPR, created iPad-specific apps that helped showcase stories — and images — in a tabloid-style layout.

And in January 2011, Apple reached a milestone by surpassing 10 billion downloads from its App Store — a sign of just how popular the company's devices have become with consumers.

"Simplifying complexity is not simple," says Susan Rockrise, a creative director who worked with Jobs. "It is the greatest, greatest gift to have someone who has Steve's capabilities as an editor and a product designer edit the crap away so that you can focus on what you want to do."

Rockrise believes Jobs touched pretty much anyone who has ever clicked a mouse, sent a photo over the Internet, published a book from a home computer or enjoyed portable music or a computer-animated movie.

She says they all have Jobs to thank for making it happen.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And I'm Guy Raz. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple has died. He'd been battling cancer for years.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: The iPhone, the iPod, the iMac, the iPad.

ROGER MCNAMEE: It boggles the mind to think about all the things that Steve Jobs did.

SYDELL: Roger McNamee worked with Jobs on several projects. He says Jobs brought us desktop publishing, computer-animated movies, the first commercially successful computer.

MCNAMEE: Any one of which would've qualified him as one of the great executives in American history, the sum of which put him in a place where no one else has ever been before.

SYDELL: And Jobs was as much a great executive as he was an inventor.

MCNAMEE: To me, he is of his era, what Thomas Edison was to the beginning of the 20th century.

SYDELL: Steve Jobs was just 21 when he founded Apple Computer in his garage in Cupertino, California. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The garage was in Los Altos, not Cupertino.] In 1977, when Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, released the Apple II, most computers were big enough to fill a university basement or were do-it-yourself kits for hobbyists with soldering irons.

LEANDER KAHNEY: The Apple II was a huge hit.

SYDELL: Leander Kahney is the author of "Inside Steve Jobs' Brain."

KAHNEY: That was really the first blockbuster PC that anyone had seen. And it made Apple the biggest computer manufacturer in the nascent computer industry.

SYDELL: The Apple II had sound and it was the only computer on the market with color graphics. You could hook it up to your TV set and play games on it. It also had a spreadsheet program that made it popular with small businesses. But in 1981, Apple got some serious competition when IBM released its first personal computer. IBM had the advantage of its well-known, trusted name. Apple countered with the MacIntosh.

The Mac's signature was that it was easy to use. The Mac was an example of a kind of product that would define Steve Jobs' entire career. Author Kahney.

KAHNEY: Jobs' idea was that we'll make it easy enough that anybody can do it – a grandmother, a kid, you know, people who don't have any experience.

SYDELL: With the Mac, Steve Jobs introduced the first computer to the public that had a mouse and graphical user interface, pull-down menus and icons. Jobs, a California boy, loathed the kind of conformist, East Coast culture represented by IBM. In 1984, when he released the Mac, Jobs sent that message to millions with one of the most-famous television commercials of all time.

The ad aired once during the Super Bowl. The minute-long commercial referenced George Orwell's "1984." A woman dressed in bright-colored shorts runs into a room of gray-looking people and throws an anvil at a screen where Big Brother – read, IBM – is talking.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce MacIntosh and you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."

SYDELL: Jobs said computers were tools to unleash human creativity.

STEVE JOBS: Part of what made the MacIntosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.

SYDELL: That's Jobs in the 1996 PBS documentary "Triumph of the Nerds." In many ways, Steve Jobs was the poet of the computer world. He'd gone to India and become a Buddhist. He took LSD and believed it had opened his mind to new ways of thinking. But Jobs' iconoclastic ideals did not always make him easy to work with. Trip Hawkins was the marketing director of Apple until 1982.

TRIP HAWKINS: He was just a terrible manager and a terrible executive. And at that point in time, I never really thought that he could be a CEO.

SYDELL: In fact, in a boardroom coup, the man that Jobs hired to be CEO of his company, John Sculley, got him fired in 1985. But Jobs was still driven to make computers vehicles for creativity. After he left Apple, Jobs purchased a little-known division of LucasFilm and renamed it Pixar. In 1995, Pixar released the first animated feature to be done entirely on computers – "Toy Story." It's about the secret life of toys like Slinkies and a talking cowboy doll.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM "TOY STORY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) Slink...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (as character) Oh, well. All right. You can be red if you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) Not now, Slink. I got some bad news.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (as character) Bad news?

SYDELL: "Toy Story" was a major hit and Pixar followed it with other big hits – "Bug's Life," "The Incredibles," "Cars." But in the years since Jobs had left Apple, the company had gotten into trouble. It had less than five percent of the computer market and most analysts predicted its demise. The board invited Jobs to come back and run his old company.

In 1998, Jobs introduced the iMac. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee says once again, Jobs helped remake the computer industry. The iMac was the first computer made to harness the creative potential of the Internet.

MCNAMEE: The transition of consumers from passive consumption of content to active creation of entertainment, so that people write their own blogs, they make their own digital photographs, they make their own movies. And Apple made all the tools to make that easy. And they did it at a time when Microsoft just wasn't paying attention.

SYDELL: Jobs next set his sights on the music industry.

JOBS: This is not a speculative market. And because it's a part of everyone's life, it's a very large target market all around the world.

SYDELL: There were MP3 players on the market, but none of them were easy to use. Jobs helped engineer the iPod, which he introduced at a trade show in San Francisco in 2001.

JOBS: This amazing little device holds 1,000 songs and it goes right in my pocket.

SYDELL: The iPod was a classic Jobs product – easy to use and nice to look at. Apple sold tens of millions of iPods, the iTunes store became the number one retailer. Six years later, Apple released the iPhone. Again, there had been other devices that put a phone and a music player together, but none of them were as elegant and as easy to use.

Susan Rockrise, a creative director who worked with Jobs in the late-1980s and early-1990s, says that was Jobs' signature.

SUSAN ROCKRISE: Simplifying complexity is not simple. It is the greatest, greatest gift to have someone who has Steve's capabilities as an editor and a product designer edit the crap away, so that you can focus on what you want to do.

SYDELL: Jobs' last game-changer was the iPad. For years, the computer industry had tried but failed to find a formula for slate computers and, for years, people had been talking about e-books. But it wasn't until Apple entered the market with the iPad that the promise of slate computers and e-books came together. Rockrise believes Steve Jobs has touched every person who clicks a mouse, sends a photo from their desktop to the Internet, publishes a book at home on their computer, enjoys portable music or a computer-animated movie.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, has died. He'd been battling pancreatic cancer for years. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.