Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, We Hardly Knew You

     Steve Jobs was a computer entrepreneur, a marketing genius and an inspiration to all Americans. He died yesterday at age 56 of pancreatic cancer.

     I thought it appropriate to revisit a post from earlier this year that I did on the former Apple ceo. From April 2011:

     I've never owned an Apple computer. I don't have a iPod or an iPhone or an iPad. Yet Steve Jobs has changed my life immeasurably, simply because of his impact on the personal computer and the electronics revolution.

     Steve Jobs, at age 56, is one of the most influential Baby Boomers. I don't want to write his obituary prematurely, but apparently he's in real trouble. And I don't submit this post to give any credence to a sleazy newspaper that may sensationalize his health problems, but to pay homage to a brave and creative genius. And honestly, until I saw this item, Ten Unusual Things I Didn't Know About Steve Jobs, I didn't know much about him. But Steve Jobs is one fascinating guy.

     I didn't realize that he was adopted. His biological father's name was Abdulfattah Jandali. His mother was an unmarried graduate student who felt too young to raise a child. So she put him up for adoption, with the only proviso that his new parents be college graduates. But after the first adoptive parents fell through, the next in line was a couple -- one of whom didn't go to college; the other didn't even graduate from high school. This couple ended up getting the boy only after making the promise that they would make sure he would go to college.

     I did have a vague awareness that Steve Jobs was a college dropout. He spent a semester at Reed College, a good but not especially highly rated college in Portland, Oregon. The reason he dropped out? He felt he wasn't getting that much out of his experience, and he knew that paying the tuition was impoverishing his parents. So he dropped out, but stayed around campus auditing courses for a couple more semesters, sleeping on the floor of friends' apartments, picking up some knowledge and skills at little to no cost.

     Before he started Apple with partner Steve Wozniak, he worked briefly for Atari, creating those primitive shooting and "pong" type games we all remember from the '70s. He then co-founded Apple Computer in 1976, when he was just 21 years old.

     We all know about the success of Apple. But who remembers that Jobs was unceremoniously fired in 1985? He was the loser in a corporate power play, and found himself publicly humiliated and out of work at the age of 30. Some people thought he was washed up. But he quickly prove them wrong. He immediately founded another company, Next, followed by Pixar, the animation company eventually acquired by Disney. Jobs went back to Apple after Next was bought out by Apple in 1996.

     Jobs was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his pancreas. In 2009 he had a liver transplant, and reportedly went to Switzerland to receive an experimental treatment for pancreatic cancer. In January 2011, Jobs took yet another medical leave of absence "so he could focus on his health." Since then he has been observed, according to Mail Online, looking "thin and frail," and he has been seen going in and out of Stanford University's state-of-the-art cancer center.

     People have written Steve Jobs' obituary before. Literally. Apparently Bloomberg news published a Jobs obit. in August 2008, much to their embarrassment. Let's hope he will defy the odds one more time.

     For a look at Steve Jobs, here is the graduation speech he made at Stanford University in 2005, where he talks about the three pivotal moments in his life. When he dropped out of college. When he was fired. And when he was diagnosed with cancer and learned to ask himself:  If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

    "Remembering  that you are going to die," he says in his speech, "is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."


rosaria said...

Thanks for sharing this.

Retired English Teacher said...

This was very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write it and to share it with us.

Linda Myers said...

Follow your heart. What a courageous idea.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Fascinating story of a man who really did change our world. He was a true genius. And his advice to follow one's heart is so very wise and true.