“We started out to get a computer in the hands of everyday people, and we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”
– Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computer Inc., 1976.
Steve Jobs was adopted to a family in Mountain View, California. While still in high school, Jobs interest in electronics prompted him to call William Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard to ask for some parts for a school project. Hewlett provided the parts and then made an offer to Jobs to intern at Hewlett-Packard for a summer. There, Jobs met Steve Wozniak, a talented and knowledgeable engineer five years older than the high school student. Their friendship would eventually be the foundation on which Apple was built.
Jobs dropped out of Reed College after one semester and went to work for Atari designing games. He carefully saved the money he earned while working at Atari so that he could take a trip to India and sate his bourgeoning interest in the spiritualism of the East.
After returning home from India, Jobs and Wozniak renewed their friendship. Jobs was shown a small computer that Wozniak had been working on as a hobby, but Jobs saw its potential immediately and persuaded Wozniak to go into business with him. In 1975, at the age of 20, Jobs went to work in his parents’ garage with Wozniak working on the Apple I prototype.
The Apple I sold modestly, but well enough to be able to go to work on the Apple II. In 1977, the new model was put on sale. With a keyboard, colour monitors and user-friendly software, Apple became a success. The company made $3 million in their first year and had surpassed $200 million in their third.
However, in addition to the Apple III and its successor the LISA not selling as well as had been hoped and a marked increase in competition in the sale of PCs, 1980 saw Apple lose almost half of its sales to IBM. Things got worse for Jobs in 1983 when a fight with the directors got him kicked off the board by the CEO, John Sculley, whom Jobs himself had hired.
In 1984, as a response to the sharp decline in sales, Jobs released the Apple Macintosh which introduced the world to the point-and-click simplicity of the mouse. The marketing for the Mac was handled poorly and with a price tag of $2,500, it was not finding its way into the homes for which it had been designed. Jobs tried to repackage the Mac as a business computer, but without a hard-drive or networking capabilities, not to mention only a small capacity for memory, corporations were not interested. In 1985, without any power in his own company, Jobs sold his stock in Apple and resigned.
Later in 1985, Jobs began NeXT Computer Co. with the money he’d made from the sale of his stock in Apple. He planned to build a computer to change the way research was done. The NeXT computer, though complete with processing speeds previously unseen, unmatched graphics, and an optical disk drive, at $9,950 each, sold poorly.
Persistent after the failures of the NeXT venture, Jobs began toying with software and started to focus his attention on a company he’d bought from George Lucas in 1986, Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs signed a three-picture deal with Disney, and began working on the first computer-animated feature. Released in the fall of 1995, it had taken “Toy Story” four years to be made. But the work had been well worth it, the film was an incredible success. Pixar went public in 1996, and in one day of trading, Jobs 80% share had become worth $1 billion.
Apple was struggling, having failed to design a new Macintosh operating system, and the company only held 5% of the PC market. Days after Pixar went public, Apple bought NeXT for $400 million and renamed Jobs to the board of directors to advise Gilbert F. Amelio, the chairman and CEO. However, in March of 1997, Apple recorded a quarterly loss of $708 million, and Amelio resigned a few months later. Jobs was left in charge as interim CEO and it was up to him to keep the same company he had started and which had ousted him alive. So he made a deal with Microsoft. With an investment $150 million for a small stake in Apple, Apple and Microsoft would “cooperate on several sales and technology fronts”, and Apple would be assured their continuation in the PC market.
Jobs also went to work improving the quality of the Apple computers. The introduction of the G3 Power PC microprocessor made the Apple faster than those computers operating on Pentium processors. Apple also turned its energies toward producing an inexpensive desktop, the iMac, that was another hit for the company. With Jobs once again in control, Apple was able to quickly turn itself around, and by the end of 1998, was bringing in $5.9 billion in sales. Jobs had returned to his first love, a little older and a little wiser. He had made Apple healthy again and returned it to a place where it was contributing new and innovative technologies to the computer world.