Top 10 moments in Steve Jobs' career

Top 10 moments in Steve Jobs' career


    As he returns to work after a serious illness, we take a look at the highlights of Jobs' years at Apple.

    By Philip Elmer-DeWitt

    Woz and the Apple II

    June 5, 1977

    It was the summer of 1977 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began selling the Apple II, the first commercially successful mass-produced microcomputer.

    The circuitry and most of the software was Wozniak's work, but it was Jobs who made the key marketing decisions: to create a fully-assembled PC board, to name it after a fruit, to encase it in plastic and give it the look of a kitchen appliance, to invite venture capital funding, to hire a high-power public relations firm, to spend heavily on slick advertising, and to pitch it as a "personal computer."

    By the time the last Apple II went out of production in 1993, nearly six million had been sold and Apple had gone public, making the two Steves millionaires many times over.

    Big Brother and the Mac

    Jan. 22, 1984

    Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer to the world with a Ridley Scott-directed TV ad that aired just once in prime time -- during Superbowl XVIII -- in what is now considered a watershed moment in high-tech marketing.

    It was the culmination of a tumultuous five-year development effort. Jobs had first incorporated ideas developed at Xerox for making computers easier to use -- including the mouse and windows -- in an ill-fated computer called Lisa. But when he saw what the Macintosh team was doing, he seized control of the project, moved it to its own building, and had a pirate flag mounted on the roof. "It's better to be a pirate," he told his staff, "than join the Navy."

    The Orwellian figure in Scott's ad represents IBM, which by then had teamed up with Microsoft's Bill Gates to compete with Apple. The young woman in athletic gear who outraces the Thought Police to smash Big Brother's image with a sledgehammer is, by proxy, Steve Jobs.

    John Sculley's palace coup

    April 11, 1985

    Jobs knew that Apple needed adult supervision, and in 1983 he recruited John Sculley (the PepsiCo marketing wunderkind who created the Pepsi Challenge) with the famous line: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

    Each man thought he could learn a lot from the other, but with Mac sales languishing and Jobs growing increasingly disruptive, their relationship soon soured. Matters came to a head at a board meeting that lasted nearly 24 hours in which each tried to oust the other. In the end, the board sided with Sculley. Jobs was stripped of all operational responsibility and banished to an outbuilding he called Siberia. Five months later he tendered his resignation.

    The NeXT years


    Jobs left Apple with half a dozen key employees and dreams of building a university workstation powerful enough to run recombinant DNA simulations yet cheap enough for college students to use in their dorm rooms.

    Backed by Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who would later run for president, Jobs' team produced a sleek black magnesium cube that won plaudits from high-end users, including Tim Berners-Lee, who designed the first Web server on a NeXT machine. But at $9,999, it never really took off. Total machines sold: 50,000.

    In 1993 Jobs took NeXT out of the computer hardware business and concentrated on selling its operating system, NeXTSTEP, which later became the foundation of Mac OS X.

    Pixar and Disney

    Jan. 24, 2006

    Shortly after leaving Apple, Jobs made what would turn out to be the most profitable investment of his life. For $5 million he picked up the collection of computer graphics experts assembled by George Lucas into his Industrial Light and Magic Computer Division and which was renamed Pixar.

    Seeing gold in 3D computer rendering, Jobs forced the staff to give up equity in return for his patronage. Then after the success of Toy Story, he engineered an exquisitely timed public offering in 1995 that made him a billionaire for the first time. On Jan. 24, 2006 Jobs sold Pixar to Walt Disney Co. in a deal worth $7.4 billion, in which he ended up with a Disney board seat and the single largest share of Disney stock (7%, worth more than $3 billion).

    Return of the prodigal son

    Dec. 20, 1996

    Apple drifted after Steve Jobs left, making uninspired computers and losing market share. The company seemed to be headed for bankruptcy when it bought NeXT for its NeXTSTEP operating system and got Jobs in the bargain. The board, having lost confidence the management team, ousted its CEO and gave the position on an interim basis to Jobs for a nominal salary of $1 a year.

    Determined to make Apple profitable again, Jobs quickly terminated several high-profile projects, including the Newton, Cyberdog and OpenDoc. Leaning heavily on Jonathan Ive, a British-born industrial designer he found in Apple's design department, Jobs introduced a series of distinctive products with a fresh new look, including the Bondi blue iMac, the tangerine iBook and the minimalist white iBook G3.

    In 2000 he dropped "interim" from his title and began jokingly referring to himself as Apple's permanent iCEO.

    The iPod and the music industry

    Oct. 23, 2001

    Widespread piracy was already eroding the profit margins of the recording industry when Jobs introduced the first iPod -- a Mac compatible MP3 player with 5GB of memory capable of storing roughly 1,000 songs. Sales were slow at first, but they accelerated when Apple introduced a Windows-compatible iPod the next summer.

    Sales exploded with the 2003 launch of the iTunes Music Store -- the 99-cent shop where music lovers could buy songs with a single click and music publishers could finally start getting a cut from digital downloads.

    Today, high-end iPods can hold up to 200,000 songs, and the iTunes Store -- having served up more than 6 billion downloads -- dominates the music industry.

    The iPhone and cellular telephony

    Jan. 9, 2007

    "Today," said Jobs about 45 minutes into his 2007 MacWorld keynote, "Apple is going to reinvent the phone." The combination cell phone, music player and portable Internet device he demonstrated that day didn't actually go on sale until nearly six months later, but by then anticipation was so great that eager customers had formed long lines at Apple Stores across the U.S.

    The original iPhone had its problems -- chief among them a short battery life and AT&T's sluggish network -- but Jobs' prediction was not far off. Two versions and more than 21 million unit sales later, his touchscreen smartphone has become the industry standard other manufacturers seek to emulate.

    Even more impressive than the device itself is the rich ecosystem of application software that has grown up around it. Today, the iPhone App Store hosts more than 50,000 applications that have been downloaded more than 1 billion times.

    Brush with death

    July 31, 2004

    In Oct. 2003, doctors doing a routine abdominal exam on Jobs discovered a rare but treatable type of malignant tumor in his pancreas. After pursuing alternative therapies for nine months, Jobs entered Stanford University Medical Center in late July, 2004, where the tumor was removed -- along with part of his pancreas, his gallbladder, part of his stomach, the lower half of his bile duct, and part of his small intestine.

    In a memo to the staff he pronounced himself "cured," but four years later he began rapidly losing weight. In a second memo last January he said that he had an easily treated "hormone imbalance." The next week he announced that he was taking a six-month medical leave to deal with health-related issues that had turned out to be "more complex" than he initially thought.

    In June, it was reported that while on medical leave, Jobs had received a liver transplant. According to doctors at University Hospital in Memphis, where the surgery was performed, he is "recovering well" and has an "excellent prognosis."

    Return to One Infinite Loop

    June 29, 2009

    "Steve Jobs is back to work," Apple chief spokesperson Steve Dowling said. "He is at Apple a few days a week and working from home the other days. We're glad to have him back."

    Jobs was scheduled to return at the end of June, but he had been spotted on the company's Cupertino campus 10 days early -- on June 22 -- dressed in his trademark black turtleneck, sneakers and jeans.

    Apple COO Tim Cook had been running the company in Jobs' absence and won high marks from Apple watchers for his steady hand.

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