How Steve Jobs changed the world

To most people, Steve Jobs is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs. The company now faces a test of its identity with Jobs’ announcement that he’s stepping down as CEO.

Jobs has long been recognized as a visionary in the computing field, but his impact extends far beyond that, into popular culture and even the way people live today. Here’s a brief timeline of some of his, and Apple’s, significant contributions, interspersed with some choice quotes over the years from Apple’s leader.

July 1, 1976: The debut of the Apple I, designed and built by Steve Wozniak. It is Jobs’ idea to sell it (he and Jobs decide on a price of $666.66). It has a 1 MHz CPU and 4K of memory, expandable all the way up to 48K.

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

April 1, 1977: The Apple II, the first really successful microcomputer, is released. Because it has color graphics capability, Apple adds rainbow colors to its logo, which will become iconic for Mac users.

“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23 and over $10,000,000 when I was 24 and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”

Jan. 24, 1984: The first Macintosh, which marks a big leap in desktop graphics processing, is released. But the first Mac’s biggest cultural impact comes two days before its release, on Jan. 22, when the now-famous "1984” commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, appears during the Super Bowl. Just as the Mac changes the game in computing, that commercial changes Super Bowl advertising, with companies and their ad firms going all-out to try to top one another. Consider: 364 days a year, people change channels, hit “mute,” leave the room or fast-forward to avoid commercials. During the Super Bowl, they wouldn’t miss them — they talk about them, rate them, analyze them, post them and in some cases obsess over them. You can thank Jobs, at least in part, for that.

“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people –– as remarkable as the telephone.” (1985)

1985-1996: Jobs leaves Apple after a battle for control of the company. During this time, he buys Pixar Animation Studios for $10 million from George Lucas. Pixar produces “Toy Story,” the first full-length, fully computer-generated movie and a huge success, and Jobs becomes a billionaire when the company goes public. He also introduces the NeXT computer. Apple, which almost tanks while Jobs is away, buys the computer in 1996 when it rehires him as an adviser. He becomes interim CEO the next year.

“If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”

Aug. 15, 1998: Apple introduces the iMac G3, with a startling, it-came-from-outer-space design that adds a lot to the company’s cool factor. The iMac is significant on several fronts. It famously has a two-step process for setting it up and connecting to the Internet, which is a revelation for people who have been wrestling with PCs. It eventually will be offered in a range of colors, which, along with the pod-like shape, changes the way computers can look. And it marks the first use by Apple of the “i” prefix, which would, of course, become synonymous with the company that would go on to produce the iPhone, iPad and iPod and name programs iLife, iWork and so on. These days, if you put “i” in front of anything, people assume it’s a reference to Apple. The iMacs will later evolve into even cooler-looking flat-panel designs.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.… Going to bed at night saying, ‘We’ve done something wonderful’…that’s what matters to me.”

Oct. 23, 2001: The first iPod is introduced, with a 5G hard drive capable of holding 1,000 MP3 songs in a small, light device with easy navigation and access to a catalog of songs by the name of iTunes. The music business will never be the same.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

June 29, 2007: The iPhone is released. Considering its cultural impact, mention of the iPhone might have to be accompanied by the opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” Its design and functionality set the computing and telecomm industries ablaze and forever change users’ expectations of what a phone should do. Whether you use an Android or any other kind of mobile phone today, it started with the iPhone.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”

April 3, 2010: The iPad is introduced. After the success of the iPhone, few products — and certainly no tablet PCs — were ever so eagerly anticipated as the iPad. And it delivers in design, functionality and battery life. Manufacturers, including Apple, have tried and failed with tablet computers before, but in applying the touch-screen functions of the iPhone to a small, slim form factor, Apple has come up with the right combination. As with the iPhone, other manufacturers follow suit. The iPad, now in its second version, has even achieved the rare feat for Apple of finding its way into government enterprises at the local, state and federal levels.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected