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Holden On: Steve Jobs, Innovator

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Wednesday October 5th marked the death of one of history’s great innovators, Steve Jobs. Jobs had been struggling with pancreatic cancer since mid-2004. He was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer known as islet cell neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Though a procedure seemed to have successfully removed the tumor, Jobs had recurring symptoms, which led to a liver transplant in 2009. A little over a month after he announced his resignation from his role as Apple’s CEO, Jobs has died. To many people who weren’t paying attention to Jobs’ health, this may have been a surprise. Jobs had attempted to keep his personal life out of his career, rarely talking about his condition.

In keeping with his business-first ideals, it seems only right to focus on his illustrious career rather than his personal health.

Although it is hard to tell after his incredible successes in the last few decades, Steve Jobs came from rather simple beginnings before founding Apple. Jobs was born on February 24th, 1955 in San Francisco and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. Jobs went to high school in the Cupertino school district, while living in Mountain View, California. After graduating from high school, he went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon for a semester before dropping out to avoid putting an economic burden on his parents.

Jobs proceeded to take a trip to India with Daniel Kottke, later the first Apple employee. He returned a changed man, a Buddhist with a shaved head. He then got a job for Hewlett-Packard, the well-known computer company, where he befriended eventual Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Jobs then founded Apple in 1976 with Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. In 1985, he left to found NeXT Computer, which built computers intended for use by the financial and academic community. NeXT created the WebObjects software, which has been used to develop many of Apple’s web applications, including the iTunes Store, the Apple Store and MobileMe. NeXT was later bought by Apple.

Job’s incredible success was not only in the computer industry, as he also founded one of the most well-known computer-generated film groups. The next major move in Jobs’ career was the purchase of the Graphics Group in 1986, which was later renamed Pixar. Our entire generation grew up with these Pixar movies, which began with Toy Story, released in 1995. The company’s highlight reel includes such classics as Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, and WALL-E. Most recently, the group released Toy Story 3, the third installment of Pixar’s most storied franchise. After continued success for 15 years, Jobs sold the company to Disney for $7.4 billion on January 24th, 2006.

Though his success with Pixar revolutionized the film industry and led to many other animated films, Jobs’ most recognized accomplishment has been his complete revolution of the electronics industry following his return to Apple in 1996.

After an 11-year absence from the company, Jobs made a triumphant return in 1996, when Apple agreed to buy Jobs’ company NeXT for $429 million. Jobs then infused his innovative ideas from NeXT into Apple’s new products.

Mac OS X, the operating system that Harriton students use daily on their laptops, was created from NeXTSTEP, NeXT’s innovative operating system. Under Jobs, Mac laptops became a product known for their sleek design and easily understood operating system, features that produced sales despite above-market prices.

On design, Jobs said “That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This statement is shown throughout Apple’s storied history, as every device not only looks beautiful but works flawlessly.

The incredible part of Jobs’ story is that he completely revolutionized so many fields of technology, most significantly portable audio players. Before the iPod was released in 2001, portable audio players were generally difficult to use and chunky. The iPod changed the entire portable audio scene, as it allowed anyone to upload their own music from CDs or download it from the iTunes Store.

The entire idea of iTunes was revolutionary, as you can now download music straight to your computer without ever having to leave your chair. The iPod changed over many generations with new models coming out every year with redesigned hardware and features. They generally became smaller yet more powerful in both memory and battery life.

The newest iPod shuffle is only a fraction of the size of the first iPod classic, which only had a 12th of the memory of the newest version of the classic. The App store then evolved from the iTunes store and offers a huge marketplace of applications for the iPod Touch, and the iPhone, one of Jobs’ greatest innovations. When we compare the iPhone to the first cell phone, the bulky one that now produces knee-slapping laughs, it is almost impossible to draw any similarities. The iPhone allows you to surf the internet, listen to music, play games, and perform regular phone functions, things the first cell phone couldn’t even dream of.

The iPhone is essentially what would happen if the original cell phone somehow had a child with a Gameboy, a laptop and an iPod. This is all thanks to Steve Jobs, who helped incorporate the cell phone functions into an operating system similar to the one used in an iPod.

In recent years, most cell phone designs have followed the iPhone format of a huge touchscreen with a handful of small buttons. Droid, most notably, has risen as a competitor to the iPhone in the newly-developed smartphone market. Only a few years after its release, the iPhone became the dominant force in the smartphone market, growing in popularity while drawing away business from Blackberry.

Jobs’ vision for a phone capable of so many functions revolutionized the phone market and helped to build the constantly growing smartphone market. Steve Jobs is the definition of an innovator. No other person has had such a massive impact on so many different technological markets. Jobs created Apple and with it created a philosophy of designing products to be both aesthetically pleasing and completely functional.

I wrote this article on one of his products and every day Harriton students make use of a variety of them. When you walk down the hall, you turn one way and you watch a classmate turn the corner, headphones on, rocking out to the latest hits on his iPod. Jobs created that. You walk into the library, stare out into a sea of shiny screens, and listen to the clicking of students at work on their laptops. Jobs created that. You walk into class and watch as your friend takes out his iPhone and stealthily checks a text message. Jobs created that. Harriton runs on Apple products. Steve Jobs, a great businessman, a great leader, a great visionary, lost his fight to pancreatic cancer, but his legacy will live on in our iPods, iPhones and laptops.

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Holden On: Steve Jobs, Innovator