The world has lost one of its greatest visionaries.
Steve Jobs and his accomplishments will never be forgotten, as he has singlehandedly altered so many of our lives in such fundamental ways that we will never be the same. Even though many of us were never fortunate enough to know him personally, somehow we all felt connected to him in some indescribable and intimate way.
He defied conventions of success. Born out of wedlock in California in 1955 to a Syrian immigrant and an American from Wisconsin, he was put up for adoption as his biological mother's father did not approve of the pair's union. Paul and Clara Jobs took him in as their own and vowed to give him an education. Despite dropping out of college, he rose to become one of the strongest pillars of American business.
After founding Apple (NAS: AAPL) in 1976 with Steve Wozniak, he was eventually ousted by the very CEO he had hired to run the company. Without him, Apple struggled and flirted with bankruptcy. With him, Apple flourished and will always be recognized as the greatest turnaround in corporate history, as Apple has become the largest company in the world by market cap.
The closest friend you've never met
One reason that might explain why we feel so close to him is that he had an uncanny ability to access the deepest recesses of our minds and imaginations, even without knowing us individually. He knew what we wanted even before we did. His visions have shaped technology and society in such profound ways that it's impossible to grasp how one man could achieve so much.
His insight into the future of technology allowed him to craft the world's most lustworthy devices and revolutionize every industry Apple touched. Apple didn't just touch those industries; it defined them under Jobs' guidance.
Defining moments and markets
Apple's computers began to incorporate unparalleled industrial design while proving that computers can be irresistible. It defined the MP3 player market with the iPod and the iTunes Music store that helped dampen the rampant piracy that had begun to plague the industry while redefining standards of digital distribution.
The iPhone raised the smartphone bar with the now-ubiquitous capacitive touchscreen and shot down the idea that technical specifications were all consumers cared about. Rather, ease of use and an integrated user experience trumped the fastest processor.
The newest market that is still unfolding under Apple's influence is the tablet market, whose standards have been set by the iPad, where Apple has yet to see a credible competitor.
During his absence from Apple, Jobs acquired the small computer-graphics division of Lucasfilm and created Pixar. In doing so, he contributed to creating some of the most timeless family movies that our children will be watching for decades to come, starting with the original Toy Story and including The Incredibles and Up.
Pixar practically pioneered entirely computer-generated movies, and the animation studio has yet to release an unsuccessful film. Eventually, Disney recognized its value and acquired Pixar in a deal that would make Steve Jobs Disney's largest individual shareholder.
Another company he started during his intermission at Apple was NeXT Computer, which served as the foundation to the Mac OS X operating system that all Macs run today. Apple inevitably acquired NeXT as it called on Jobs to return to the company during its darkest days.
In 2004, he went on medical leave to undergo surgery for pancreatic cancer. Then in 2009 he underwent a liver transplant. He nearly died while awaiting the operation, but eventually in Tennessee he received the liver of a mid-20s person who unfortunately died in a car crash but was generous enough to have been an organ donor. The experience made Jobs a staunch promoter of organ donation in California.
Earlier this year, he took his third medical leave as Tim Cook ran Apple's daily operations. Then in August, he sent a fateful letter to Apple's board, expressing that the day had come that he would no longer be able to meet his duties and expectations as Apple's CEO. He named Cook as his permanent successor.
Steve Jobs is survived by his wife of 20 years, Laurene, and four children. His last moments were described as peaceful, and he was surrounded by his family.
Jobs' legacy will forever reverberate through Apple's core. Although he has died, each of us who carries an iPhone with us every day, types articles on an iMac, or reads books on an iPad, immortalizes his essence in doing so and represents the only way we can truly thank him for all he has done for us.
Here's to you, Steve.
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Walt Disney and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and Walt Disney, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy
Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.