Sal Veder, File, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Steve Jobs started Apple Computer with a high school friend in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976, was forced out a decade later, then returned to rescue the company. During his second stint, Apple grew into the most valuable technology company in the world.
Jobs invented and masterfully marketed ever-sleeker gadgets that transformed everyday technology, from the personal computer to the iPod and iPhone. Cultivating Apple's countercultural sensibility and a minimalist design ethic, he rolled out one sensational product after another, even in the face of the late-2000s recession and his own failing health.
Jobs helped change computers from a geeky hobbyist's obsession to a necessity of modern life at work and home, and in the process he upended not just personal technology but the cellphone and music industries.
Perhaps most influentially, he launched the iPod in 2001, which offered "1,000 songs in your pocket." Over the next 10 years, its white earphones and thumb-dial control seemed to become as ubiquitous as the wristwatch.
In 2007 came the touch-screen iPhone, and later its miniature "apps," which made the phone a device not just for making calls but for managing money, storing photos, playing games and browsing the Web.
And in 2010, Jobs introduced the iPad, a tablet-sized, all-touch computer that took off even though market analysts said no one really needed one.
Earlier this month, Apple briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company in America, with Apple stock on the open market worth more than other company's.
Under Jobs, the company cloaked itself in secrecy to build frenzied anticipation for each of its new products. Jobs himself had a wizardly sense of what his customers wanted, and where demand didn't exist, he leveraged a cult-like following to create it.
When he spoke at Apple presentations, almost always in faded blue jeans, sneakers and a black mock turtleneck, legions of Apple acolytes listened to every word. He often boasted about Apple successes, then coyly added a coda — "One more thing" — before introducing its latest ambitious idea.
In recent years, Apple investors also watched these appearances for clues to his health.
In 2004, Jobs revealed that he had been diagnosed with — and "cured" of — a rare form of operable pancreatic cancer called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor. In early 2009, it became clear he was again ill.
Jobs took a half-year medical leave of absence starting in January 2009, during which he had a liver transplant. Last January, he announced another medical leave, his third, with no set duration. He returned to the spotlight briefly in March to personally unveil a second-generation iPad.
Jobs grew up in California and after finishing high school enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after a semester.
"All of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it," he said at a Stanford University commencement address in 2005. "I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out."
When he returned to California in 1974, Jobs worked for video game maker Atari and attended meetings of a local computer club with Steve Wozniak, a high school friend who was a few years older.
Wozniak's homemade computer drew attention from other enthusiasts, but Jobs saw its potential far beyond the geeky hobbyists of the time. The pair started Apple in Jobs' parents' garage two years later. Their first creation was the Apple I — essentially, the guts of a computer without a case, keyboard or monitor.
The Apple II, which hit the market in 1977, was their first machine for the masses. It became so popular that Jobs was worth $100 million by age 25. Time magazine put him on its cover for the first time in 1982.
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