With Steve Jobs' passing, we have lost one of the greatest technological innovators of our time. Jobs wasn't just a savvy businessman, he was a visionary who made it his mission to humanize personal computing, rewriting the rules of user experience design, hardware design and software design. His actions reverberated across industry lines: He shook up the music business, dragged the wireless carriers into the boxing ring, changed the way software and hardware are sold and forever altered the language of computer interfaces. Along the way, he built Apple up into one of the most valuable corporations in the world. Macintosh, 1984 The Macintosh arrived in 1984, and it was the first computer to successfully integrate two things that are now commonplace: a graphical user interface and a mouse. Little pictures of folders, the piece of paper denoting a file, the trash can — most of us learned how all of these things worked when we sat down at the Mac. Drag-and-drop, too. Apple launched the Macintosh with a massive media campaign spearheaded by a minute-long TV commercial (riffing on Orwell's 1984) that aired during the Super Bowl.
Apple IIc, 1984 It was one of the first small-form-factor PCs to hit the market, signaling the industry-wide move toward compact, integrated designs that would come later. Also, its diminutive size and unassuming looks were far less intimidating than the hulking machines common in the mid-1980s. It was an era when computers beginning to creep into middle-class homes, and first-time buyers found the IIc a "friendly" and appealing option. It looked equally attractive in the family room as it did in the office.
Pixar, 1986 Steve Jobs bought Pixar in 1986. At the time, it was a small group of engineers spun off from the computer graphics department at Lucasfilm. Jobs paid $5 million to George Lucas and sank $5 million of his own money into the company. His original vision for Pixar was to develop graphics-rendering hardware and software, but the business eventually evolved into an animation studio. Jobs signed a distribution deal with Disney and Pixar began cranking out a string of hit family films, all of them computer-animated. 1995's Toy Story was the first blockbuster. Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, WALL-E and Upfollowed. Accolades and Oscars came rolling in, along with massive mountains of cash. In 2006, Jobs flipped his original $10 million investment, selling Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion in stock. That's one hell of an exit.
iMac, 1998 After NeXT failed to gain traction, Jobs sold the company to Apple and came back into the fold in 1996. Two years later, the company released a complete rewrite of the desktop PC — the candy-colored iMac. It kicked the boring beige PC box to the curb, and it marked the return of the revolutionary all-in-one design first introduced by the original Macintosh. The first iMac was a runaway hit, and the all-in-one design is still used by today's iMac (and widely copied by other PC manufacturers).
iPod, 2001 The first iPod was a $400 MP3 player with a 5-gigabyte hard drive and a mechanical scroll wheel that didn't sync to Windows machines. Not a very likely candidate for the device that would completely change the music industry. But it did, pouring fuel on the fire of online mayhem lit by Napster and creating a mindset among music device buyers where ease-of-use, convenience and sex appeal trump all other features.The iPod's all-white design was minimalist compared to other players that came before and, more importantly, the user interface was remarkably easy for anyone who picked it up to figure out. The hardware had its quirks — if you got sand in the scroll wheel, you'd get stuck listening to Spin Doctors all day — but it was quickly refined to incorporate further innovations: the touch-wheel, a color screen for watching videos and eventually, the industry-standard touchscreen. Mac OS X, 2001 When Steve Jobs...