Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs Dies At 56

Long before the MacBook and the iPad, Steve Jobs dreamed that computers could be used to help unleash human creativity. He spent much of his life bringing that dream to fruition.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary. People around the world are mourning the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He died yesterday at the age of 56 and is survived by his wife and four children. NPR's Laura Sydell has this remembrance.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: The iPhone, the iPod, the iMac, the iPad.

ROGER MCNAMEE: It boggles the mind to think about all the things that Steve Jobs did.

SYDELL: Roger McNamee worked with Jobs on several projects. He says Jobs brought us desktop publishing, computer animated movies, the first commercially successful computer.

MCNAMEE: Any one of which would have qualified him as one of the great executives in American history. The sum of which put him in a place where no one else has ever been before.

SYDELL: And Jobs was as much a great executive as he was an inventor.

MCNAMEE: To me he is of his era what Thomas Edison was to the beginning of the 20th century.

SYDELL: Steve Jobs was just 21 when he founded Apple Computer in his garage in Los Altos, California. In 1977, when Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak released the Apple II, most computers were big enough to fill a university basement or were do-it-yourself kits for hobbyists with soldering irons.

LEANDER KAHNEY: The Apple II was a huge hit.

SYDELL: Leander Kahney is the author of "Inside Steve Jobs Brain."

KAHNEY: That was really the first blockbuster PC that anyone had seen and it made Apple the biggest computer manufacturer in the nascent computer industry.

SYDELL: The Apple II had sound and it was the only computer on the market with color graphics. You could hook it up to your TV set and play games on it. It also had a spreadsheet program that made it popular with small businesses. But in 1981, Apple got some serious competition when IBM released its first personal computer. IBM had the advantage of its well-known trusted name. Apple countered with the Macintosh. The Mac's signature was that it was easy to use. The Mac was an example of the kind of product that would define Steve Job's entire career. Author Kahney.

KAHNEY: Jobs' idea was that we'll make it easy enough that anybody can do it, a grandmother, a kid, you know, people who don't have any experience.

SYDELL: With the Mac, Steve Jobs introduced the first computer to the public that had a mouse, graphical user interface, pull-down menus and icons. Jobs, a California boy, loathed the kind of conformist East Coast culture represented by IBM. In 1984, when he released the Mac, Jobs sent that message to millions with one of the most famous television commercials of all time.

The ad aired once during the Super Bowl. The minute-long commercial referenced George Orwell's "1984." A woman dressed in bright-colored shorts runs into a room of gray looking people and throws a sledgehammer at a screen where Big Brother - read IBM - is talking.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh, and you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984."

SYDELL: Jobs said computers were tools to unleash human creativity.

STEVE JOBS: Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians, who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.

SYDELL: That's Jobs in the 1996 PBS documentary "Triumph of the Nerds." In many ways Steve Jobs was the poet of the computer world. He'd gone to India and become a Buddhist. He took LSD and believed it had opened his mind to new ways of thinking. But Jobs' iconoclastic ideals did not always make him easy to work with. Trip Hawkins was the marketing director of Apple until 1982.

TRIP HAWKINS: He was just a terrible manager and a terrible executive. And at that point in time I really never thought that he could be a CEO.

SYDELL: In fact, in a boardroom coup, the man that Jobs had hired to be CEO of his company, John Sculley, got him fired in 1985. But Jobs was still driven to make computers vehicles for creativity. After he left Apple, Jobs purchased a little known division of Lucasfilm and renamed it Pixar. In 1995 Pixar released the first animated feature to be done entirely on computers, "Toy Story." It's about the secret life of toys, like Slinkies and a talking cowboy doll.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TOY STORY")

TOM HANKS: (as Woody) Slink.

JIM VARNEY: (as Slink Dog) Oh, well, all right. You can be red if you want.

HANKS: Not now, Slink. I've got some bad news.

VARNEY: Bad news.

SYDELL: "Toy Story" was a major hit and Pixar followed it with other big hits - "Bugs Life," "The Incredibles," "Cars." But in the years since Jobs had left Apple, the company had gotten into trouble. It had less than five percent of the computer market and most analysts predicted its demise. The board invited Jobs to come back and run his old company. In 1998, Jobs introduced the iMac. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee says once again Jobs helped remake the computer industry. The iMac was the first computer made to harness the creative potential of the Internet.

MCNAMEE: The transition of consumers from passive consumption of content to active creation of entertainment. So that people write their own blogs, they make their own digital photographs, they make their own movies. And Apple made all the tools to make that easy, and they did it at a time when Microsoft just wasn't paying attention.

SYDELL: Jobs next set his sights on the music industry.

JOBS: This is not a speculative market. And because it's a part of everyone's life, it's a very large target market all around the world.

SYDELL: There were MP3 players on the market but none of them were easy to use. Jobs helped engineer the iPod, which he introduced at a trade show in San Francisco in 2001.

JOBS: This amazing little device holds 1,000 songs and it goes right in my pocket.

SYDELL: The iPod was a classic Jobs product - easy to use and nice to look at. Apple sold tens of millions of iPods. The iTunes store became the number one retailer. Six years later, Apple released the iPhone. Again, there had been other devices that put a phone and a music player together but none of them were as elegant and easy to use. Susan Rockrise, a creative director who worked with Jobs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, says that was Jobs' signature.

SUSAN ROCKRISE: Simplifying complexity is not simple. It is the greatest, greatest gift to have someone who has Steve's capabilities as an editor and a product designer edit the crap away so that you can focus on what you want to do.

SYDELL: Jobs' last game changer was the iPad. For years the computer industry had tried but failed to find a formula for slate computers, and for years people had been talking about e-books. But it wasn't until Apple entered the market with the iPad that the promise of slate computers and e-books came together. Rockrise believes Steve Jobs has touched every person who clicks a mouse, sends a photo from their desktop to the Internet, publishes a book at home on their computer, enjoys portable music or a computer-animated movie. Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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