The Inventor Of the Future

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Diana Walker / Contour by Getty Images for TIME

Boston's 1997 MacWorld Expo listens to Jobs on stage.

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Jobs' distinctive management style was also coming into focus. Whereas hackers hacked computers, Jobs hacked hackers. "He wanted you to be great, and he wanted you to create something that was great," said computer scientist Larry Tesler, an Apple veteran, in the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds. "And he was going to make you do that." Jobs understood people, but not the way an artist does. He wasn't going to write you a poem about it. This was another facet of his genius, the least attractive one: he understood how to get people to do what he wanted, to give him more than they thought they could, even when they really, really didn't want to. And he was willing to do it. He dismissed people who didn't impress him--and they were legion, inside and outside Apple--as bozos. He tormented hapless job candidates. Jef Raskin, the originator of the Macintosh project, said Jobs "would have made an excellent King of France."

Among the people whose buttons he pushed was Apple's president, John Sculley, formerly the CEO of Pepsi, the man whom he had famously shamed into joining Apple with the question "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?" Frustrated with Jobs' management of the Macintosh division and empowered by the Mac's sluggish sales, Sculley and Apple's board stripped Jobs of all power to make decisions in May 1985. In September, Jobs resigned.

Decades later, the notion of Apple's deciding it would be better off without Steve Jobs is as unfathomable as it would have been for Walt Disney Productions to sack Walt Disney. In 1985, though, plenty of people thought it was a fabulous idea. "I think Apple is making the transition from one phase of its life to the next," an unnamed Apple employee told InfoWorld magazine. "I don't know that the image of a leader clad in a bow tie, jeans and suspenders would help us survive in the coming years."

Using his Apple millions and funding from Ross Perot and Canon, Jobs founded NeXT, a computer company that would be even more Jobs-like than Apple had been. Built in a state-of-the-art factory and sporting a logo by legendary designer Paul Rand, the NeXT system was a sleek black cube packed with innovations. Unfortunately, it was aimed at a market that turned out not to exist: academic types who could afford its $6,500 price tag. After selling only 50,000 systems, NeXT refocused on software, though Jobs can claim credit, obliquely, for yet another revolution: Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web on a NeXT.

For years, Jobs' second post-Apple venture, Pixar, looked like another disappointment. Its image-processing computer was a tough sell, and Jobs kept the company alive by pumping millions of his own money into it. As a sideline, however, it made computer-generated cartoons that started winning Oscars. In 1995, Disney released Pixar's first feature, Toy Story. When it became the year's top-grossing movie, it gave Jobs his first unqualified success in a decade. (By the time he sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006, his career had reached such dizzying heights that the deal was merely a delightful footnote.)

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