Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, now Apple, Inc., died on Wednesday, about 9 months after he began phasing out his leadership of the company.
When I was an electronics and computer-industry editor and conference director, I met with and interviewed Jobs on many occasions. He was to technology and Silicon Valley what Washington Irving was to American literature and Hudson Valley — a person capable of extending the boundaries of their profession well beyond what had ever been done before.
Apple's website posted Jobs' picture and the following message: "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. 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."
He was as gifted as he was tenacious and I remember he could be thrifty too. In January 1977, a few days before I hosted Gametronics, the world's first electronic games conference (Burlingame, California, Jan. 18-20), he called and asked if he could have a pass. Cash was tight, he said, because Apple Computer had incorporated only two weeks earlier. I was happy to waive the $60 admission charge for Jobs who was not quite 22 at the time.
Apple's financial status would improve. A. C. "Mike" Markkula, a bright young marketing engineer at Intel who hit it huge on the stock market and was one of my most frequent interegrated-circuit conference speakers, became Apple Computer employee #3 and a partner. He helped Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak, Jobs' high-school classmate, obtain a $250,000 bank loan, took over the marketing reins and the rest is history.
Like two other famous Silicon Valley pioneers, Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett-Packard, Jobs and Wozniak started their company in a garage. Jobs worked for the controversial Nolan Bushnell at Atari, the company that launched the electronic games industry and invented Pong. Wozniak worked for Hewlett-Packard, the industry leader in electronic instrumentation and test equipment, before teaming up with Jobs.
Some of Jobs' earlier efforts had limited success including Apple I (a workable machine that deserved a better fate) and a computer called Lisa (although Jobs' daughter Lisa was born prior to its development, according to Apple employees, this computer was named after a company secretary); industry observers say it was well designed but doomed by a highly unrealistic price (in the vicinity of $10,000 before being reduced).
The Apple II and Macintosh personal computers would more than made up for earlier misfires. Apple outsmarted competition by dominating the college student and graphics/publishing markets and in the years to come, enjoyed phenomenal success. Another successful marketing move was the introduction of the Apple Store in 1997, an early Internet buying site expanded a few years later to include brick-and-mortar retail outlets.
In following years, Apple would introduce many state-of-the art products, among them prize products the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
When Jobs stepped down in August, he issued the following statement: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”
He was born in San Francisco and attended high school in Cupertino, a town located in the heart of Silicon Valley. He enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon but dropped out.
He was operated on for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and received a liver transplant in 2009.
He will be missed.
Jerry Eimbinder is a frequent Patch contributor and a resident of Tarrytown.