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The Early Influences That Shaped Jobs‘ Vision

Dear reader, let me walk you through the captivating life story of Steve Jobs, the brilliant visionary who transformed personal technology and introduced innovations that became integral to our daily lives. This comprehensive account illustrates how Jobs revolutionized no less than six industries and left an unparalleled legacy of ingenuity.

Jobs was born in 1955 in San Francisco and adopted by loving parents who encouraged his early interest in electronics. His father, a machinist, taught him mechanical skills and the values of craftsmanship from an early age.

In 1972, a young Jobs graduated high school and enrolled in Reed College – an expensive liberal arts school in Portland. He dropped out after one semester but continued auditing calligraphy classes for the next 18 months. Jobs later said that the beautiful typography he was exposed to at Reed shaped his sense of design and Apple‘s future products.

After dropping out, Jobs bounced around college for 18 months studying philosophy, religion and technology. During this period, Jobs experimented with psychedelic drugs and later said that those experiences helped him think differently.

In 1974, Jobs took up a job as a technician at Atari where he worked with Steve Wozniak. Little did he know this unassuming job would lead him to start the most valuable company in the world just 2 years later.

In 1976, 21-year old Jobs founded Apple Computer with his friend Steve Wozniak in his parents‘ garage. This was just at the dawn of the personal computer revolution.

Wozniak designed and built the Apple I while Jobs devised its marketing and struck business deals. The Apple I was ahead of other machines of the era as it came fully assembled, whereas other PCs required tedious assembly.

Jobs leveraged his now-famous reality distortion field to convince local stores to order the Apple I despite fledgling demand. He fundamentally changed how personal computers were sold – fully assembled to consumers rather than as DIY kits for hobbyists.

The Apple II followed in 1977 and was chosen by VisiCorp to demonstrate the first ever spreadsheet and word processing programs. With color graphics, hi-res animation and an audio card, Apple II sales boomed. By 1978, Apple was making $1 million per month with sales doubling every four months – explosive growth that fueled the PC revolution.

But conflict arose between Jobs and other Apple executives who favored more traditional corporate structure over his creative vision. This resulted in Jobs being forced out of the company he co-founded in 1985 at just 30 years old.

Devastated but undeterred, Jobs sold all but one share of Apple stock and aimed to start over. He founded NeXT Inc. to build advanced educational computers, showing that his ambition could not be thwarted.

During his exile from Apple, Jobs purchased Lucasfilm‘s computer graphics division in 1986 which later became Pixar Animation Studios.

Pixar was languishing until Jobs provided leadership, strategic guidance and additional funding. He recruited John Lasseter who developed technologies allowing crude computer animations to be transformed into feature films beginning with Toy Story in 1995.

Toy Story went on to huge commercial success with over $350 million in box office revenue. This marked Pixar‘s emergence as a powerhouse of computer animation. Jobs had astutely recognized the potential for digital animation years before competitors and guided Pixar into an industry leader.

Jobs negotiated a landmark co-production deal with Disney in 1997 that split costs and profits. This aligned Pixar‘s creative prowess with Disney‘s marketing and distribution muscle. Over the next 15 years, Pixar created an unprecedented streak of hit animated films like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Wall-E.

The Pixar deal made Steve Jobs the largest shareholder of Disney after it purchased Pixar for a colossal $7.4 billion in 2006. This highlights Jobs‘ pivotal role in pioneering modern digital animation.

A decade after being ousted, Apple purchased NeXT for $429 million in late 1996 bringing Jobs back as advisor. He rapidly ascended again as interim CEO.

At the time, Apple was floundering, having failed to launch a next-generation operating system to replace the outdated Mac OS. Jobs axed 70% of products, leaving just 4 to focus on doing less but better. He forged partnerships with Microsoft to invest $150 million in Apple.

In 1998, Apple launched the iMac G3, a breakthrough all-in-one computer encased in translucent bondi blue plastic. The stylish iMac sold 800,000 units in under five months, putting Apple back on the map.

This was followed by the Apple Store in 2001. Rather than just selling via retailers, Apple had its own physical stores with personalized service and lustworthy products on display. The stores became shrines that bolstered the brand‘s cachet.

But the biggest disruptions were yet to come under the stewardship of Jobs who led Apple to unprecedented profitability and briefly made it the most valuable traded company in 2011.

In 2001, Apple unveiled the iPod, a pocket-sized device that stored 1,000 songs and synced seamlessly with the iTunes music library. With its scroll wheel and slick design, the iPod became a cultural icon and digital music phenomenon.

Apple sold 380,000 iPods in the first year and 100 million by 2008 through relentless product iterations. Competitors failed to keep pace as each new iPod model set the bar higher on design, storage, size, colors and battery life.

iTunes was the real game changer. As an integrated library synced to the iPod, iTunes allowed seamless music management combined with an online store selling songs for just 99 cents. This innovative model disrupted the entire music industry.

At its peak in 2012, iTunes had over 500 million active users and a catalog of 43 million songs generating billions in revenue. It catalyzed the explosion of digital music.

In 2007, Apple released the iPhone. While not the first smartphone, it leapfrogged the competition through its revolutionary touchscreen interface and sleek industrial design.

The iPhone introduced multi-touch gestures, swipes and pinches to zoom. This capacitive touchscreen replaced plastic styluses used by earlier resistive touchscreen phones. The keyboard was also eliminated, replaced by a responsive on-screen keyboard.

It‘s easy to take the iPhone‘s touch UI for granted today but it was groundbreaking technology in 2007. Combined with mobile web browsing, email, calendar and maps, the iPhone delivered computing power in your pocket.

The App Store launched a year later allowed 3rd party apps, fueling iPhone adoption. By unleashing developer creativity, soon there were hundreds of thousands of apps enhancing the capabilities Jobs had never imagined.

The iPhone was an unprecedented success, igniting the smartphone revolution. Apple has sold over 2.2 billion iPhones to date. The iPhone accounted for over 60% of Apple‘s revenue as recently as 2020, highlighting its importance to Apple‘s meteoric rise.

Next came the iPad in 2010, which made tablet computers mainstream after prior failed attempts by Microsoft and others. The iPad built on the iPhone‘s touch interface but with a larger 9.7 inch display.

By eliminating physical keyboards, the iPad was thinner, lighter and easier to operate than previous tablets. It was also more powerful than smartphones for productivity. The App Store already had thousands of apps ready for the iPad‘s launch.

Apple sold over 300,000 iPads on day one even though the tablet market was non-existent before it. The iPad achieved sales of 100 million units by just 2.5 years after launch – the same timeframe as the iPhone. This established the iPad as Apple‘s third revolutionary product developed under Jobs.

Steve Jobs has been described as a modern day Thomas Edison in the sheer breadth of industries he upended. While he did not engineer the core technologies himself, his genius was understanding what consumers desired before they realized it.

Jobs considered himself an artist just as much as technologist and placed design on par with function. He insisted on excellence down to minute details that consumers would never notice but contributed to the unified user experience.

Some of his guiding design principles were:

  • Focus – Build excellent products rather than chase profit. Just make the best devices you yourself want to use.

  • Usability – Products must be intuitive and user-friendly. They should feel natural, even enjoyable, to operate.

  • Simplicity – Cut out unnecessary complexity. Simplify interfaces to the most essential features.

  • Elegance – Beauty in both hardware and software. Products should "just work" via smart design.

  • End-to-End Control – Control over both hardware and software for unified user experience.

  • Premium Build – Manufacturing with precision and premium materials. Details and fit-and-finish matter.

  • Secrecy – Shroud products in secrecy to fuel anticipation and prevent copying.

Jobs was thus equally skilled at understanding human desires as the technology itself. He played the critical role of guiding the design and user experience decisions that made Apple‘s beautiful products instantly compelling.

While this account has focused on Job‘s monumental achievements, he was also a complex man with many flaws as most geniuses are.

Jobs valued his privacy and little is known about his personal life. But his mercurial personality and management style have been widely documented.

Profiles describe a man possessed of massive ego, an abrasive attitude, and little tolerance for underperformance. Though he could inspire with charisma, his criticism was often scathing which fostered a culture of fear at Apple.

Engineers working under him endured impossible deadlines and perfectionistic demands because they wanted to please him.

In business dealings though, Jobs leveraged his aura of genius to gain concessions from partners, suppliers and even rivals.

His perseverance was forged through setbacks like being forced out of his own company and multiple health problems. Jobs battled cancer and other illnesses for years before his death in 2011 at just 56 years old.

The story of Steve Jobs illustrates that innovation requires both vision to see future possibilities and the force of will to manifest them into reality. While he left behind a complex legacy, Jobs changed our relationship with technology and ushered in the personal computing age we now take for granted.