Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs is back in Cupertino — for good, we hope — after a six-month medical leave.
That’s great news, and we hope it marks the beginning of another long chapter of Steve’s life at Apple, the computer company he cofounded decades ago, rescued from near-disaster in the 90s, and has turned into a consumer electronics juggernaut this decade, changing the music and mobile industries forever.
Here’s an appreciation of a guy who has accomplished more in one lifetime than most people would in 20. And he ain’t done yet.
Steve was born in 1955, was adopted, and as his official bio reads, 'grew up in the apricot orchards which later became known as Silicon Valley.'
Here's the house where Apple later began.
Jobs met Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, who was four years ahead of him at Homestead High, and the two quickly became friends, sharing stories of pranks they'd pulled.
One elaborate prank -- flipping off a high school graduating class with a big, tie-dyed, middle finger salute-painted sheet, signed 'SWAB JOB' -- never quite worked. 'Steve got in trouble,' Wozniak wrote in his bio, iWoz.
Jobs had an early appreciation for facial hair. This will become an on-again, off-again trend.
Jobs attended after-school lectures at HP, where Wozniak worked, and got a summer job there.
But it wasn't until the mid-70s -- after Steve attended and dropped out of Reed College and traveled to India -- that he started attending Wozniak's 'Homebrew Computer Club.'
To get Apple off the ground, Steve and Steve 'sold their most valuable possessions.'
Jobs 'sold his Volkswagen micro-bus and Wozniak sold his Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator, which raised $1,300 to start their new company.'
In 1984, Steve rolled out the Mac. It was the first personal computer driven by a graphical user interface. Now they all are.
Here's Apple's famous '1984' Super Bowl commercial.
Steve got fired from Apple and started a new company called NeXT.
The hardware side was a bust, but the software would eventually become the basis for Apple's OS X -- which runs today's Macs, iPhones, and the iPod touch. (Apple bought NeXT in 1997.)
Steve's first hit of the 90s wasn't a computer, but a movie.
Jobs bought Pixar, an animation studio, from George Lucas in 1986.
In 1995, Toy Story started Pixar's streak of hits, grossing over $191 million in the U.S. and Canada during its initial box office release. Pixar's IPO added a cool billion to Steve's net worth.
After Apple bought NeXT, Steve gradually got closer to Apple.
In early 1998, Steve Jobs had cultivated a woodsy look. Here he is at Macworld in January, where he announced that beat-up Apple made a $45 million profit the prior quarter.
Later that year, Steve unveiled the iMac, Apple's Internet-focused computer that -- controversially -- shipped with no floppy drive. (And was Apple's first computer to use USB.)
'It looks like it's from another planet,' Steve said. 'And a GOOD planet!'
Here's the video:
The iPod was Jobs's biggest game-changer (so far) at Apple.
Not only did Steve dominate one industry -- portable music players -- but he helped totally shake up another -- the music business.
Steve isn't just friends and product partners with U2 frontman Bono.
He also sold him an apartment in the star-studded San Remo co-op building on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Perhaps Steve's most famous speech was his Stanford Commencement speech in 2005.
He talked about his life as a college droput, his entrepreneurship, and his battle with cancer.
He ended with a quote from the last edition of The Whole Earth catalogue: 'Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.'
Here's the video:
One of Steve's greatest coups: Getting Intel CEO Paul Otellini to walk out on stage at Macworld 2006 in an Intel 'bunny suit.'
That's when Steve announced that Apple was switching its product line over to Intel chips.
Steve's best product showmanship at Apple came in January, 2007, when he unveiled the iPhone.
Perhaps the best part is when he prank called a Starbucks while showing off the phone's Maps app. 'I'd like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding -- wrong number.'
Here's a video (part one) of Steve unveiling the iPhone.
The good news, as Steve returns from medical leave, is that the iPhone is doing a nice job leading Apple's growth. Two years after launching, the iPhone is still getting hundreds of thousands of people to wait in line -- 1 million purchased the new iPhone 3G S last weekend. But the Mac and iPod businesses are not currently growth drivers.
Jobs will have to figure out how to keep driving iPhone innovation as competitors get closer. And how to take on the fast-growing PC netbook category. And how to reward COO Tim Cook, who led Apple well while Steve was out. Word is that he'll soon receive a seat on Apple's board.