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Brochure - K-Way Gallery: Steve Jobs 1955-2011
BasicCreativity 01/12/2011 


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This exhibit retraces the most important stages of the professional and personal life of Steven Paul Jobs (1955 – 2011), known as Steve Jobs, one of the most influential innovators and entrepreneurs of modern time. Just like Henry Ford or Thomas Alva Edison, the achievements of this original and extraordinary individual cannot be limited to technology only. In fact, his innovations, from the personal computer to the iPad, via iTunes and Pixar, have completely transformed our way of communicating, working, informing and enjoying ourselves by making an irreversible impression on our time as well as that of future generations. In the official biography of Steve Jobs, published in Italy by Mondadori in October, we discovered that Jobs had visited Turin and that, when he talked about it, he would say: “I had a wonderful couple of weeks in Turin, which is this charged-up industrial town”.

It is also for this reason that Turin is pleased to dedicate this exhibit to Steve Jobs, hoping that the vitality of this industrial town can transmit that passion for technology and life that characterized the American entrepreneur and innovator. 

 

Between flowers and microprocessors

 

In the late 1960s, the San Francisco area was in the midst of a total double cultural revolution. In those years, the California city became the epicenter of the explosion of the rising hippy culture: a youth movement that dizzyingly blended music, psychedelic drugs, sexual freedom, creativity and political involvement. During this “flower revolution” a new and just-as-revolutionary cultural technology was growing in the same region (also known as Silicon Valley), which aimed at spreading computer knowledge to all levels of society, rejecting large multinational monopolies and laying the foundations for the birth of the era of microprocessors, personal computers and popular information technology. Steve Jobs grew up in this very crossroads of revolutionary and nonconformist cultures, being able to blend the two in a wholly original way.

 

“This fusion of flower power and processor power, was embodied by Steve Jobs.” Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, Mondadori, 2011. 

 

The grandeur of an idea, the narrowness of a garage

 

In the garage, adjacent to home of Steve Jobs’s parents, today a national museum, Apple Computer was born in the spring of 1976. Convinced of the entrepreneurial potential of microelectronics and personal information technology, a very young and lively Steve Jobs persuaded his friend Steve Wozniak, an employee at Hewlett Packard (HP), to start a business together to begin producing a small but innovative and revolutionary motherboard that could connect to a monitor and a keyboard. Steve Wozniak had designed this motherboard a few months before; completing it in the summer of 1975 and presenting it to the members of the Homebrew Computer Club with the intention of giving his design away to whomever wanted it. Jobs, who was present that evening, did not agree: that design could be sold, giving birth to a whole new industry.  Initially reluctant, Wozniak accepted. Thus Apple Computer was born and that motherboard, subsequently produced in only two hundred units, entered into history with the name Apple-1, the first computer produced and sold by Apple.

  

Apple II and the personal computer industry

 

Toward the end of 1976, Steve Jobs is the first to sense that information technology is ushering in a new era. Even if sales of the Apple-1 are going very well, Jobs takes it off the market and asks his friend and partner, Steve Wozniak, to design a new machine. The young American entrepreneur is convinced that,

in addition to hobbyists, computers can attract a new kind of market, one that is broader and less of a niche.

From this intuition, the modern personal computer industry will take shape. After several months of work, on April 16, 1977 at the West Coast computer fair in San Francisco, the Apple II is presented; a compact computer enclosed in an appealing plastic case. Apple is the first company to break away from specialist circuits and present its product in large distribution magazines and newspapers with the slogan:

 

Apple II: the home computer that is ready to work, play and grow with you.

 

In July 1978, Apple presents its floppy disk reader onto which you can save and carry your information, while in February 1979, the first administrative software for these new machines comes out. It is called VisiCalc, a spreadsheet (similar to Excel), which spreads to offices throughout the world, thus establishing Apple II’s great success. 

Apple III and the Lisa

 

In the late 1970s, Apple is a young but solid company: the Apple II computer sells well, the revolution that tends to make information technology popular has taken off and Steve Jobs continues to attract more and more market attention and public opinion. Despite this, he is unsatisfied and is convinced that information technology must once again take a big leap. For this reason, at the Apple laboratories, two new machines are in the works: Apple III and Lisa. Apple III will be born in 1980 but it will be an ill-fated and heavy machine with serious operating defects. Also the Lisa, which came out in 1983, will not be a successful machine but will present for the first time on a commercial level a technology so innovative that it definitively alters the way of using the computer: the mouse and graphic interface. The use of these two revolutionary technologies was not an invention of Jobs or of Apple but of several ingenious researchers at the Xerox research center, among whom Alan Kay, Butler Lampson and Chuck Thacker.

The mouse and graphic interface are already installed in 1973 in the Xerox Alto computer (never marketed)

and then in the Xerox Star in 1981. Nevertheless, Xerox, a company active in the photocopier sector, is not interested in developing this kind of innovation and the design remains little more than a prototype, poorly functioning and expensive. On the contrary, Jobs, during a visit to the Xerox laboratories toward the end of the 1970s, immediately recognizes in this new technology the future of information technology and of Apple. He will be the one to make the mouse and the windows of graphic interface truly popular and accessible to everyone.

  

Macintosh. The Machine for Everyone

 

In the early Eighties there was an out and out battle within Apple. The firm had changed, it was publicly owned and employed thousands of people. Steve Jobs, more and more restless and combative, was not satisfied with making money with Apple II, he wanted a new revolution. The board of directors sidelined him and took the Lisa project away from him, relegating him to supervise what then appeared to be a minor project: the Macintosh. With the rage and enthusiasm of a young revolutionary, Jobs rolled up his sleeves and pushed a group

of very young designers (whom he called “pirates”) to produce an “insanely great machine” that would have forever changed the information technology world and beyond. In the end, he and his pirates truly succeeded. The Macintosh, introduced in early 1984, is considered the forefather of the popular family still commercially available and known as the Mac. Even in this first model, launched by an advertising campaign directed by no-less-than Ridley Scott, the entire philosophy of all future Mac models is present: great attention to design by eliminating all superfluous elements, efficient operating systems and great processing power. Finally, as with the Lisa, the Macintosh uses a window- and cursor-based operating system to be used with a mouse, a choice that makes it truly usable by everyone. 

 

Creative entrepreneurship

 

Steve Jobs was an incredible entrepreneur; you need only two facts to demonstrate it. One: when Apple went public in 1980, it produced more wealth than the colossal Ford Motor Company did in the 1950s.

Two: Apple, the company founded and directed by Jobs, started off with a capital of approximately $1,000 in 1976. In 2010, it had $110 billion revenue, obtaining a market penetration of its products among the highest in technological history. However, it is surprising to discover how these mind-blowing economic results are not born from meticulous business plans but come to life from a creative and passionate philosophy that Steve Jobs summarized as: “You should never start a company with te goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last”. Steve Jobs often defined himself as an artist. As a matter of fact, like an artist, he was the first to passionately love the products his company made. For him, everything had to be a revolution.

He was convinced that his machines had created “dents” in the universe. At Apple, at Pixar and at NeXT, wherever he worked, he forced his collaborators to work with this aim. He hated traditional companies and, like David against Goliath, during his career, he often took on IBM and other giant manufacturers. They were symbols, in his opinion, of a non-innovative industrial culture. Jobs’s entrepreneurial career is an example, above all for new generations, of how it is possible to express one’s creativity and one’s passions also in business.

  

NeXT. The perfect machine

 

Upon leaving Apple, Steve Jobs focused his energy on two new companies: Pixar and NeXT. If the former was oriented toward developing software and hardware for the cinema world, the latter should have worked on manufacturing powerful, yet compact and personal, machines for universities.

The idea for NeXT came to him in August of 1985 while he was speaking with the Nobel prizewinner Paul Berg. The scientist was explaining to him how many difficulties they had to face while conducting biochemical experiments in the laboratory, when Jobs interrupted saying: “Why don’t you simulate the experiments on the computer?” It was precisely around this idea that NeXT took shape; a company orientated in satisfying the needs of those who needed to process large quantities of data.

As a result of this new vision of his, which was not recognized by Apple, Jobs, together with a handful of “pirates”, left  the company he had founded, where, in his opinion, it was no longer possible to innovate. At NeXT, Jobs wanted to produce a new concept of computer: it would have to be attractive like the Macintosh, but powerful like a workstation. The logo, the shape, the materials, the motherboard, even the screws, everything in the NeXT would have to be of superior quality.

When the first NeXT product (the NeXTCube with the operating system NeXTSTEP) was presented on October 12, 1988, Jobs entered the stage like a magician saying to the journalists: “This is the time to present a new architecture destined to change the face of computing”. Indeed, the machine presented was perfect, of a cubical shape, with an excellent operating system and cutting edge applications. Nevertheless, NeXT machines never achieved a large commercial success. They were too expensive and were barely compatible with other computers. Despite this, the technologies developed at NeXT were useful to Steve Jobs to return to Apple and still today are the basis for many devices at the Cupertino firm.

 

Pixar. Between art and technology

 

In 1986, fresh from being fired, Steve Jobs invested about $5 million to purchase the computer graphics division of the Star Wars director George Lucas’s movie production company (ILM, Industrial Light & Magic).

Everyone must have thought: producing information technology hardware and software is one thing, but producing animated movies is a whole different story. Where is Steve Jobs investing his money? Is he crazy?

Actually, if you think about it, it is as if a thirty-year old Maradona had quit playing football in order to put on a pair of skis, thus beginning a new athletic career. It is true that, as with Apple, it was also about computers here. But the movie world and that of information technology seemed at the time so different and far apart that few would have bet anything on the union between Jobs and the big screen. Initially, Jobs focused on the development of the companies’ machines and software. He thought that he could create and sell technology specialized in the processing of 3-D images. Slowly, however, seduced by that fascinating meeting of art and technology that only computerized graphics can offer, he realized that the true originality of his new company (which he renamed Pixar) was precisely in animation and cartoons. Thanks to the artistic and technical contributions of the ingenious director John Lasseter (who will become

a good friend of Jobs), in the decade between 1986 and 1995, Jobs will invest great resources and capital, obtaining a first result already in 1988 when the short film Tin Toy wins an Academy Award; followed by a second one 1995 for the first full-length computerized film in history: Toy Story, an enormous success that made Pixar famous throughout the world. Steve Jobs was also rewriting the history of cinema. Maradona had put on skis and was starting to win world cups. 

 

Born under the sign of «i»

 

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, the company he had founded twenty years prior was on the edge of failure: too many products and too few ideas. The American entrepreneur decided to make a clear cut and reorganized all production. In 1998, the first product from the new Jobs era came out: the iMac, a machine with a catchy and very colorful design. Before the iMac, information technology was dominated by the color beige, and the Cupertino company actually played on this concept with the slogan: “Sorry, no beige!” The iMac was a huge success, giving life to the rebirth of Apple. But Jobs achieves a true masterstroke with another technology. In the fall of 2001, he sent a letter to the journalists of Silicon Valley inviting them to a presentation for a new product. At the bottom of the invitation appeared a mysterious message: “Warning: it’s not a Mac!” When, on October 23, 2001, after approximately twenty-five minutes of chatter about the music industry, Steve Jobs pulled an iPod out of the pocket of his jeans, the audience was astonished. It was a music player with the measurements of a deck of cards and could store a thousand music tracks. Its success was enormous and in a short time the iPod was spread in millions and then in hundreds of millions. Jobs’s “i” revolution resumed in January 2007 when Apple, after having revolutionized the music world with the iPod, presented the iPhone: an innovative phone with a (multi-touch) interface that allows navigating content using simple finger movements. Finally, in January 2010, the iPad was launched: the latest Apple product born under the sign of “i”, a tablet that is revolutionizing the world of publishing and journalism and how we access the web.

 



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