The founder of Apple popularized a gospel of surprising and delighting users with designs that were simple, yet elegant and above all easy to use. Along the way, he helped drive the shift to digital media. Jobs also cut an example of tenacity and the independence to, in the words of his own slogan, “think different.”
Although he had no engineering degree, Jobs was steeped in Silicon Valley culture from an early age. Caught up in its microcomputer frenzy, he founded Apple Computer Company with EE Steve Wozniack in 1976.
Jobs championed the design of the Apple Macintosh that in 1984 crystallized the move to graphical user interfaces in personal computing. The Xerox PARC Alto was the first microcomputer to use a mouse, icons and pull-down menus, but under Jobs’ leadership the Macintosh brought those tools to a mass market.
The Mac set the stage for what was to come years later. After a bitter parting from Apple in 1985, Jobs returned in 1996 to lead it from near bankruptcy to becoming in August 2012 the most valuable company in history.
Apple’s rise followed the arc of a string of iconic consumer products that led the PC industry into the post-PC era. Like the Macintosh, the products were not the first to use new technologies but were typically the first to implement and market them in ways that captured the imagination of increasingly broad audiences.
Click on image to enlarge.
The iPhone is clearly the standout example of the list that includes the iMac, iPod, iTunes and iPad. It was the first cellular phone to deliver an open Web browser in a multifunction device that was easy to use, winning—among other kudos—a cover story in Time Magazine
The iPhone is as good an example as any of Job’s imprint on engineering. Under the hood, it sported many of the same components used in competing products. But in a user’s hand, Apple’s software and industrial design presented the features they delivered in a more accessible manner.
In short, Jobs canonized the user experience as the driving design factor in consumer electronics. Ironically, he also championed a culture of the elite, bucking an industry trend toward horizontal specialization to create a vertically integrated company. Apple conducted no market research. Instead it focused on delivering “insanely great” products users would have to love.
Jobs’ attention to design details could bubble over into micro-management and obsession. It also won him citations on an estimated 342 U.S. patents.
Jobs was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, with Steve Wozniak (among the first people to ever receive the honor).
He died October 5, 2011, at 56, of pancreatic cancer. According to his official biography he left the company with ideas for designs yet to be released, including an Apple iTV.
Following are EE Times
tributes to Steve Jobs:One lesson we learned from Steve JobsFarewell to Steve JobsJobs: A flair for a little design magicApple co-founder Jobs passes at 56