Steve Jobs, the wizard behind Apple who put the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad into the hands of millions of religiously devoted consumers around the globe, died Wednesday.
He was 56 and had battled pancreatic cancer since 2004.
“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being,” the company said in a statement. “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”
In a separate statement, his family said, “Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family. … In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness.”
On Aug. 24, Jobs had announced his resignation as chief executive in an email to employees that was also made public.
In his message, he said he could “no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO,” and the company’s reins were handed over to chief operating officer Tim Cook.
In many respects, the news did not come as a complete shock.
On Jan. 17, 2011, Jobs had told the staff that he would be temporarily stepping away from the day-to-day management of the computer company he co-founded 34 years before.
Yet so closely was Jobs associated with Apple that even when he left the firm for 11 years (starting in 1985, when his relationship with the board of directors reportedly had soured), or took temporary leave in 2004 (when he first began to deal with his health), Jobs was still thought of as the corporate face of Apple.
“I was born in San Francisco, California, USA, planet Earth, February 24, 1955,” Jobs told the Smithsonian’s oral history department, in 1995. “School was pretty hard for me at the beginning. My mother taught me how to read before I got to school and so when I got there I really just wanted to do two things. I wanted to read books because I loved reading books and I wanted to go outside and chase butterflies.”
The future salesman extraordinaire – who would also found the visionary motion-picture company Pixar – spent his childhood in northern California’s South Bay area, a region later to become known as Silicon Valley.
A summer job at the Hewlett-Packard Company prior to attending Reed College in Oregon (for only six months) led to Jobs’s meeting, in 1970, his future business partner: a computer engineer named Steve Wozniak.
While it was Wozniak who actually built the Apple I and II, it was Jobs who, according to a 1997 Time profile, “made the key decisions that shaped the company and the PC industry in its formative years: to name his computer after a fruit; to package it in a molded plastic case; to hire world-class p.r. and marketing firms; and, most incredibly, to drop everything to build the industry-incompatible but user-friendly Macintosh after visiting Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center and seeing its icons, its windows, its mouse.”
The newsmagazine also credited Jobs with making consumers face the life choice of Mac or PC.
“Steve had these dream of being one of the great people that has companies and makes products that change the world,” Wozniak, in 2008, told the Bloomberg News Service at the time it mistakenly published (and then, with an apology, quickly retracted) an obituary for Jobs. “One of the few people like the Shakespeares and Einsteins that get well known – he wanted to be in that group.”
A vegetarian and a Buddhist who wouldn’t let his three kids watch TV for fear that it might stifle their creativity, Jobs had a fortune estimated to be in excess of $5.5 billion. “Jobs is still Jobs. He still projects a manic self-confidence in public,” Time further enthused, this time in 2007, when it again named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people on planet Earth.
In his “signature jeans-and-black-turtleneck outfit,” said Time, Jobs “still has his edge: prosperity hasn’t robbed him of his disrespect for conventional wisdom, his spooky ability to see around corners, and his feral determination to make perfect products at all costs. All in all, success becomes him.”
Married in 1991, Jobs is survived by his wife, Laurene, and their three children: son Reed, born 1991, and daughters Erin, 1995, and Eve, 1998. Jobs and a former partner, Bay Area painter Christiann Brennan, also had a daughter, journalist Lisa Brennan-Jobs, born in 1978.