A testament of prophecy, true belief, go-getting and megabucks
Stop. Before proceeding: a test. A kind of measured mile on the long road to high-tech heaven.
There are only a couple of questions. Either: a) "What will a computer do for me?"; b) "Do I really need a personal computer?"; or c)—the beginner's question—"What are these things anyway?"
A bonus: there are no penalties for wrong answers. The weight of the argument and the heat of the debate are what count now. And of all the people who have floated these questions into the cultural ozone—scientists and sociologists, computer freaks and microchip madmen, quick-buck artists and free-falling futurists—none has kept them aloft for so long, or turned them to such profitable purpose, as Steven Paul Jobs.
He is 27 years old. He lives in Los Gates, Calif., and works 20 minutes away in Cupertino, a town of 34,000 that his company has so transformed that some San Franciscans, about 35 miles to the north, have taken to calling it Computertino. There is no doubt in any case that this is a company town, although the company, Apple, did not exist seven years ago. Now, Apple just closed its best year in business, racking up sales of $583 million. The company stock has a market value of $1.7 billion. Jobs, as founder of Apple, chairman of the board, media figurehead and all-purpose dynamo, owns about 7 million shares of that stock. His personal worth is on the balmy side of $210 million. But past the money, and the hype, and the fairy-tale success, Jobs has been the prime advanceman for the computer revolution. With his smooth sales pitch and a blind faith that would have been the envy of the early Christian martyrs, it is Steven Jobs, more than anyone, who kicked open the door and let the personal computer move in.
Jobs (rhymes with lobs) did not make the revolution alone. He did not even make the machine that made the revolution, the Apple II, the personal computer that along with its other skills seemed to mint money. Stephen Wozniak, 32, Jobs' friend and former colleague who looks like a Steiff Teddy bear on a maintenance dose of marshmallows, created the Apple II. He worked from some pre-existing technology, scaling it down radically and making it affordable to consumers as well as corporations. "Steve didn't do one circuit, design or piece of code," says Wozniak, who was widely regarded as the true technological wizard in Jobs' corporate Oz. "He's not really been into computers, and to this day he has never gone through a computer manual. But it never crossed my mind to sell computers. It was Steve who said, 'Let's hold them up in the air and sell a few.' "