Steve Jobs’ vision of a “computer for the rest of us” sparked the PC revolution and made Apple an icon of American business. But somewhere along the way, Jobs’ vision got clouded — some say by his ego — and he was ousted from the company he helped found. Few will disagree that Jobs did indeed impede Apple’s growth, yet without him, the company lost its sense of direction and pioneering spirit. After nearly 10 years of plummeting sales, Apple turned to its visionary founder for help, and a little older and wiser Jobs engineered one of the most amazing turnarounds of the 20th century.
The adopted son of a Mountain View, Calif., machinist, Steve Jobs showed an early interest in electronics and gadgetry. While in high school, he boldly called Hewlett-Packard co-founder and president William Hewlett to ask for parts for a school project. Impressed by Jobs, Hewlett not only gave him the parts, but also offered him a summer internship at Hewlett-Packard. It was there that Jobs met and befriended Steve Wozniak, a young engineer five years his senior with a penchant for tinkering.
After graduating from high school, Jobs enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Ore. but dropped out after one semester. He had become fascinated by Eastern spiritualism and took a part-time job designing video games for Atari in order to finance a trip to India to study Eastern culture and religion.
When Jobs returned to the U.S., he renewed his friendship with Wozniak, who had been trying to build a small computer. To Wozniak, it was just a hobby, but the visionary Jobs grasped the marketing potential of such a device and convinced Wozniak to go into business with him. In 1975, the 20-year-old Jobs and Wozniak set up shop in Jobs’ parents’ garage, dubbed the venture Apple, and began working on the prototype of the Apple I. To generate the $1,350 in capital they used to start Apple, Steve Jobs sold his Volkswagen microbus, and Steve Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard calculator.
Although the Apple I sold mainly to hobbyists, it generated enough cash to enable Jobs and Wozniak to improve and refine their design. In 1977, they introduced the Apple II — the first personal computer with color graphics and a keyboard. Designed for beginners the user-friendly Apple II was a tremendous success, ushering in the era of the personal computer. First-year sales topped $3 million. Two years later, sales ballooned to $200 million.
But by 1980, Apple’s shine was starting to wear off. Increased competition combined with less than stellar sales of the Apple III and its follow-up, the LISA, caused the company to lose nearly half its market to IBM. Faced with declining sales, Jobs introduced the Apple Macintosh in 1984. The first personal computer to feature a graphical-user interface controlled by a mouse, the Macintosh was a true breakthrough in terms of ease-of-use. But the marketing behind it was flawed. Jobs had envisioned the Mac as a home computer, but at $2,495, it was too expensive for the consumer market. When consumer sales failed to reach projections, Jobs tried pitching the Mac as a business computer. But with little memory, no hard drive and no networking capabilities, the Mac had almost none of the features corporate America wanted.
For Jobs, this turn of events spelled serious trouble. He clashed with Apple’s board of directors and, in 1983, was ousted from the board by CEO John Sculley, whom Jobs had handpicked to help him run Apple. Stripped of all power and control, Jobs eventually sold his shares of Apple stock and resigned in 1985.