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Steve Jobs: a lifetime of visionary disruption in advancing technology

Steven Paul Jobs struggled with cancer and related health complications in a battle he sadly could not overcome, but he has left behind an incredible legacy of applied technology that shifted the course of human progress in dramatic ways, and founded a company, and a culture, that promise to continue his passionate drive to make tools that are not just intuitive, but aspire to be insanely great.

A Maverick: 1970s

Raised by adopted parents Paul and Clara Jobs in Palo Alto, California, Jobs attended high school in nearby Cupertino, working as a summer intern at Hewlett Packard alongside Steve Wozniak.

After attending some classes at Portland, Oregon's Reed College and then traveling through India on a spiritual retreat, Jobs returned home to what would become recognized as Silicon Valley to begin working for video game maker Atari, again alongside Wozniak.

Jobs described his limited college experience in a 2005 commencement address at Stanford, where he recommended following intuition and passionately pursuing personal interests, citing his drop-in calligraphy classes as the reason why computers today support advanced typography.

"Believing that the dots will connect down the road," Jobs said, "will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference."

In 1976, at age 21, Jobs worked with 25 year old Wozniak and older investor partners to incorporate Apple Computer, an effort to sell Wozniak's design for a single board home computer to programmer hobbyists. While Wozniak focused on technical details of the software and hardware, Jobs recognized the potential for selling easy to use, complete computers to a mainstream audience.

After following up the original design with the 1977 Apple II, a system that shipped complete with a built-in keyboard and support for sound and expansion cards supporting video and disk storage, Apple began to rapidly gain attention as one of the most popular and highly regarded computer makers of the late 1970s.

Despite being in his early 20s and lacking a formal university education, Jobs worked to recruit experienced executives to help run the fledgling company as sales of personal computers began to explode, starting with National Semiconductor's Mike Scott, who served as Apple's initial chief executive.

As 1980 approached, Jobs looked beyond the existing capabilities of text based, 8-bit computers, exploring the future of technology then under research at Xerox's neighboring Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Jobs signed an agreement with Xerox that allowed the company to invest in Apple prior to its initial public offering in exchange for Apple's engineers to visit and collaborate with PARC researchers in an effort to bring Xerox' computing usability research to a mainstream audience.

Jobs wasn't the only person to recognize the value of work being done at PARC, but his vision in seeing the potential applications of graphical desktop metaphors, while ignoring the technical boundaries that made those technologies prohibitively expensive at the time for the mass market, allowed Apple essentially a ten year head start in releasing a graphical computing system usable by non-technical users while powerful enough for professionals, an achievement that would win Apple a special niche among both artists and engineers.

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