The type size of today’s Wall Street Journal’s lead headline is not exactly Second Coming, but it is unusually large for that rather low-key – some might call staid – newspaper. It recognizes the celebrity, unusually well deserved, of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. For those who are not living in a cave, Mr. Jobs died yesterday. His death was not unexpected, as he had been suffering from cancer for several years and he resigned as CEO of Apple in August, stating that he could not longer fulfill his duties. He was an innovator and entrepreneur of the stature of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and stands with them as an individual who changed the way we live. So far, I cannot say I participated. The only Apple product I have ever owned was a second-hand Apple II I bought from a friend in 1986, and used mostly to play chess. No reason other than the other products seemed more business oriented, and that’s what I needed when what we called micro-computer first became available. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, I bought the products from those who stood on the shoulders of a giant.
A lawyer I knew in 1977 paid $20,000 for an Olivetti Word Processor (that’s all it did!). My first PC was a Xerox 820 I acquired in 1981for which I paid $2,500 (in 1981 dollars) that had 64KB RAM and used two 90K 5″ floppy drives. I recently paid less than $1,000 for a Dell with 8GB RAM and 500 GB hard drive. For those who might miss the connection, Steve Jobs began the technical innovations that made the personal computer popular and available to the general public which had the effect of bringing the price down as the quality and capacity went up. He would have been remarkable for that alone even without his more recent iPod, iPhone, and iPad successes.
I more or less followed Steve Jobs’ career through my daily reading of the business news, and after refreshing my memory with news stories in several publications today, I realize he was a real live Ayn Rand hero. With Steve Wozniak he started the computer business, whose name was inspired by the Beatles record label, in his garage. He created a product for which there was a nascent market and ultimately was able to take it public and become and overnight multi-millionaire. (Wozniak cashed in early and went on to sponsor rock concerts or some such thing.) When the company’s management was taken over by bureaucrats who fired Jobs, he struck out on his own again. Eleven years later, Apple, with its hat in its hand, brought him back, and became – at least for awhile this year – America’s most valuable company. Apple’s current management, his competitors, the financial community, and the rest of the cognoscenti agree that it was Jobs who did it.
Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011 RIP. We really do need more Jobs.