"Steve's the consummate entrepreneur, and he had this enormously persuasive ability to create this new world we all live in, thanks to his insanely great products," said Bob Metcalfe, a Silicon Valley pioneer who knew Jobs in the early days. "It has been an awesome thing to watch."
Jobs, on medical leave this year, is stepping down as Apple's chief executive officer, the company said late Wednesday.
Equal parts product designer, mischievous impresario, turnaround specialist, and salesman without peer, Jobs helped revolutionize not just computing, but one industry after another. Just look at the jacket copy on the new Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs, the release date of which was moved up this week from March to November: "This book chronicles the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing."
After being forced out of Apple in 1985, Jobs began a new phase of his life that was soon riddled with blockbusters. His purchase of the movie-animation company that he turned into Pixar led to a series of hits, including Toy Story. When Jobs returned to Apple and became CEO in 2000, the hits continued with a series of products that revolutionized consumer electronics.
First, the iPod reinvented the personal music player, and the iTunes Store helped turn the music industry upside-down.
Then came the iPhone, which sent the smartphone revolution into overdrive.
Finally, in 2009, the iPad arrived, creating a tech category and quickly becoming the go-to device for millions of consumers who could not figure out how they could ever have lived without the thing.
A college dropout, a Buddhist, and a son of adoptive parents, Steven P. Jobs started Apple Computer with his friend Steve Wozniak in the Jobs family garage in Silicon Valley in the late 1970s.
Despite his subsequent success with the Macintosh computer, Jobs' relationship with management soured, and in 1985 the board removed most of his powers and he left the company, selling all but one share of his Apple holdings.
Apple's fortunes waned after that. But its purchase of NeXT - the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple - in 1997 brought Jobs back into the fold.
Jobs' imagination and inflexibly high standards during his time as Apple chief essentially changed the way millions of people around the world use and relate to technology, putting the company at the pinnacle of the global digital culture as the new century dawned.
Eventually Jobs' absence could sap much of the magic he has created at Apple through the sheer force of his bigger-than-life personality. Or not.
In his recent book, The Steve Jobs Way, former Apple executive Jay Elliott writes, "I tell people that Steve is not replaceable as a charismatic, visionary leader of a consumer-product-centric company, but that he can be replaced by a triumvirate to carry on his legacy. Apple will have a new CEO but he, or she, will fill only one part of Steve's role."