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After a long battle with cancer, Steve Jobs died Wednesday as one of the world’s most polarizing and beloved visionaries. He was 56.
“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor,” Apple’s website read.
Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple and former CEO of Pixar, revolutionized personal computing and smartphones with Apple’s Mac computers, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. In August, Jobs stepped down as the CEO of Apple due to his deteriorating health after three leaves of absence.
In his signature black turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans and New Balance 991 sneakers, Jobs was infamous for his abrasive, aggressive personality, which combined with his creative genius led him to become not only one of the richest people on earth (#110 on Forbes’ list of billionaires), but also a highly visible figurehead of Apple and a symbol of the company’s innovative power.
Jobs’ death was met with mourning, as countless public figures and ordinary people rushed online to extend their condolences.
President Obama issued a statement, praising Jobs as being “among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.
“By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity.”
Fellow magnates in the technology industry also issued statements. Longtime friend and rival Bill Gates stated, “Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.”
The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.”
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page, “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”
Apple users and fans of Jobs shared their reactions and memories online. On Twitter, fans reacted under the hashtag #iSad, which became a worldwide trend on the site. Their comments ranged from heartfelt – “Steve Jobs encouraged millions of people to follow their passions and ‘think different’” —to humorous: “Without you, apple is just a kind of fruit.”
Meanwhile, Huffington Post encouraged users to share their memories under the hashtag #iRemember. User @bdf2 remembers “That giddy rush I got when I realized I had the sum total of humanity’s wisdom and knowledge literally in the palm of my hand.”
Even Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for their hateful messages, felt the impact of Jobs’ life’s work in an ironic twist as they announced they would be picketing his funeral yesterday. On the lower left corner of the tweet read the giveaway message: “3 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone.”
Jobs was born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon for one semester before dropping out to embark on a spiritual journey in India. He came back as a Buddhist, drawn to the religion’s message of simplicity that would later become a trademark of Apple’s minimalistic design.
While in high school, Jobs worked a summer job at the Hewlett Packard plant in Palo Alto, where he met Steve Wozniak. In early 1976, Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple, naming it after Jobs’ favorite fruit. Apple 1, the company’s first computer, was born.
After sales dropped throughout the industry and Jobs drew ire for his temperamental behavior, Apple fired Jobs as head of the Macintosh division in 1985. In 1986, Jobs purchased a computer animation company called Graphics Group from George Lucas and renamed it Pixar, which went on to become the world’s leading producer of animated films beginning with Toy Story in 1995.
In 1996, Apple rehired Jobs and named him CEO. Jobs revitalized the struggling company and launched it on a path that would lead to some of the industry’s most groundbreaking and beloved products, the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Jobs’ creativity, determination and charisma made him a superstar in the world of technology, a celebrity of whom everyone seemed to have an opinion. Under his leadership, Apple’s products became more than just gadgets. They became a movement, and for many, a near religion.
As news outlets reported on Jobs’ death, many of them quoted his legendary Commencement address for 2005 Stanford graduates. In it, Jobs shared the story of his life, from his humble beginnings through his professional career. He told three stories. His third story was about death.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart,” Jobs said.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”