An inventor for our generation (39798)

Chances are you use a Macintosh computer in your classroom and maybe even at home. You might have a MacBook. It’s more than likely you have an iPod, iPhone or even an iPad or know someone who does. These nifty gadgets were invented by Steve Jobs.

Who doesn’t love the classic movies “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles”? These were created by Pixar, another project of his.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 5, Jobs died after a long battle with cancer. He was 56 years old.

Jobs was the co-founder of Apple Computers. He was a computer genius, a great inventor and a visionary. His philosophy was to know what we, the consumers, wanted even if we didn’t know it ourselves. Boy, did he ever know what we wanted.

Jobs was born on Feb. 24, 1955. His parents were young graduate students attending the University of Wisconsin. His mother, Joanne Simpson, a speech therapist, and father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian political science professor, gave their unnamed infant son up for adoption.

He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs and given the name Steven Paul Jobs. The family lived in Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley, where Jobs would later make his mark on the world.

The boy was smart and creative but not the greatest student. His fourth grade teacher bribed him to study. While still in high school, he spent much of his time at the computer company Hewlett-Packard, where he met the guru of the computer club, Steve Wozniak. The two became friends.

Jobs went to Reed College in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after six months. He would spend the next year and a half taking a host of creative classes, including calligraphy. In 1974, Jobs got a job as a video game designer with Atari but left to travel to India. (Perhaps your parents remember the old Atari video games.)

At 21, he joined Wozniak and together they started Apple Computers out of the Jobs family garage. To get the startup money, Jobs sold his Volkswagen and Wozniak sold his scientific calculator.

At that point in time, not many people used computers except in offices. They were expensive and not practical for home use. These two young men changed all of that by designing a computer that was easy to use.

Their first computer, the Apple I, cost $666.66 and earned them $774,000 in sales. The Apple II earned $139 million, a 700 percent increase. By 1980, Apple Computers was worth $1.2 billion. Not bad for a company that started in a garage.

However, the next batch of products did not do well. There were problems, recalls and a loss of customers. This run of misfortune caused Apple to lose the top sales position to IBM, another computer company. Apple Computers began to compete with PCs, which most businesses were using.

In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh. It was sold as a computer for the young, hip and creative. The little computer with the smiling face was a hit, but still not comparable to IBM. That was a problem.

Jobs was blamed for the roadblock and Apple executives wanted him out. He resigned in 1985.

Not to be slowed down, Jobs started NeXT, a company that made hardware (computer components) and software (the programs that run computers). Soon there after, he purchased an animation company from George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame, which would become Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar was very successful with a series of popular movies such as “Toy Story.” Disney later bought the company for $4 billion.

In 1997, Jobs found his way back to Apple after it bought NeXT for $429 million. He was again the CEO of the company he had co-founded. He took a salary of $1 a year.

Jobs soon began to breathe new life into his old company. His next creation, the iMac, with its stylish design, was a hit with consumers.

In 2003, Jobs developed a rare form of pancreatic cancer. He had a tumor that was operable, but he did not rush to the operating table immediately, opting instead for a pesco-vegetarian diet (vegetables and fish) and alternative treatments. In 2004, he had surgery that successfully removed the tumor.

Apple launched one groundbreaking product after another: the MacBook Air (a super thin laptop computer), the iPod music player and the iPhone, all of which have sparked revolutions in modern technology and have influenced products developed by other companies. Apple was sitting pretty with stocks at $199 a share, $18 billion in the bank and no debt.

In 2009, iTunes became the second biggest music retailer in the world, behind Wal-Mart.

The business world and hordes of Apple devotees waited with anticipation for each MacWorld event to see what miracle gadget Jobs would unveil next. However, the very private Jobs, who always appeared in jeans, sneakers and his trademark black mock turtleneck, grew thinner and paler, raising concern about his well-being.

Jobs vowed to continue as head of Apple for as long as his condition allowed, but his declining health forced him to resign in August of this year. Jobs said, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, the day has come.”

President Barack Obama said of Jobs’ passing, “The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

Jobs will be remembered as a visionary and one of the world’s greatest inventors. He is rightly mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Edison (incandescent light bulb and phonograph), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone) and Henry Ford (assembly line production of automobiles), all of whom invented things that forever changed the way we live for the better.

It’s hard to imagine life without the light bulb, telephone, automobile or MacBooks, iPods and iPads.

Activities

  • Look it up: Use the Internet to learn more about the life of Steve Jobs. How does it inspire you?
  • Talk about it: Do you have a Steve Jobs invention? How has it changed the way you do things? Which ones do you like the best and why?
  • Write it down: Make a list of inventions that you can’t live without. They could be simple things like the traffic light, invented by African-American Garrett Morgan, or the railroad power line, invented by African-American Granville T. Woods.
  • Figure this: In 2004, Apple stock was $199 a share. When Steve Jobs died, Apple stock was $387 per share. What’s the difference in price? If you had bought 500 shares in 2004, how much would they have been worth when Jobs died?