Steve Jobs did more than build the world's most valuable technology company. He revolutionised the way we use electronics.

Steve Jobs embodied the Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He was a long-haired counterculture technophile who dropped out of college and started a computer company in his parents' garage on April Fools' Day, 1976. He had no formal technical training and no real business experience.

What he had instead was a notion that computers could be more than a hobbyist's toy or a corporation's workhorse. These machines could be indispensable tools. A computer could be, he often said, "a bicycle for our minds." He was right - owing largely to a revolution he started.

On his watch, Apple came to dominate the digital age, first through the creation of the Macintosh computer and later through the iPod digital music player, the iPhone handset and more recently, the iPad tablet.

The opening act of Jobs' professional ascent stretched from 1976 to 1984. He scored his first hit with the Apple II computer. Apple had its initial public offering in 1980 and the graphical Macintosh was born just over three years later.

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During his second act, from 1984 to 1997, Jobs' star dimmed. In 1985 he was fired after a power struggle with Apple's board. He started another computer company, NeXT Computer, and bought a digital animation studio from filmmaker George Lucas. The firm later took the name Pixar.

String of Hits
Apple's purchase of NeXT in 1997 brought Jobs back to the computer maker he helped found and commenced his career's third act. The company was foundering. He ignited a flurry of innovation and growth - and achieved what may be the greatest comeback in business history.

Jobs proved that complex technologies could be designed into simple, beautiful products that people would find irresistible.

His meticulous attention to product detail carried over to his public image, which grew inseparable from the Apple brand. In public he wore beltless jeans and a black mock-turtleneck. On the few occasions he granted interviews - appearing on the covers of Time, Fortune or BusinessWeek, for instance - he fretted over such minutiae as which photographer would take his picture. The reclusiveness only added to his mystique.

Another way Jobs manufactured his aura was with product unveilings. He obsessively prepared for the choreographed occasions, often at Apple's Cupertino campus or San Francisco's Moscone Centre, rehearsing his delivery many times over. He would scrap presentations wholesale, even at the last minute, if they weren't up to snuff.

He captivated audiences, and the gadgets he introduced resonated with consumers the world over, adding billions of dollars in revenue. Sales surged to a record US$28.6 billion in the June 2011 period, the last full quarter before Jobs resigned, and the stock closed at US$376.18 on August 24, before the move was announced.

That gave Apple a market value of US$349 billion.

'Park Different'
All that success came with an ego to match. Jobs was a notorious control-freak with authority issues, associates and former employees say.

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In Apple's parking area, people often noticed Jobs' silver Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG parked in the handicapped spaces. His cars were easy to spot because he refused to put license plates on them. "It's a little game I play," he told Fortune magazine in 2001.

Employees stuck notes under the car's windscreen wipers, encouraging Jobs to "Park Different," a play on the "Think Different" Apple advertising slogan.

Jobs was known to praise people one minute and belittle them the next. According to The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman, this management style was known at Apple as the "hero-shithead roller coaster." No one was immune from Jobs' tirades, and he had strained relationships with colleagues, friends, and family throughout his life.

Growing Up
Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, to unwed college graduate students Joanne Carole Schieble and Syrian emigrant Abdulfattah "John" Jandali. He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, who raised Steve in the middle-class enclaves of Mountain View and Los Altos in California.

His father had a workshop in the garage, and created a space for his son to tinker. A neighbour, who was a ham radio operator and Hewlett-Packard employee, taught him about electronics. Young Steve loved figuring out how things worked.

Self-Confidence
"It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence," Jobs said in one interview.

That self-confidence was on full display before he hit high school. As Jobs once told BusinessWeek, at age 12 he called William Hewlett, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, about some parts for a frequency counter he was trying to build.

Hewlett stayed on the phone for 20 minutes; Jobs got the parts he needed - and eventually, a summer gig at Hewlett-Packard.

Catherine Lawler Jacobs, who lived around the block from the Jobs family, remembers Jobs asking for her help setting up an office in his parents' house. Jobs had no money to pay her but offered her shares in his new company. "I said, and I remember this exactly, 'I don't want any phony shares. I want to get paid,"' Jacobs recalled in an interview.

In 1972 Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino California, also the alma mater of his future business partner, Steve Wozniak. He then headed north to attend Reed College, a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon, famous for its Bohemian atmosphere. He dropped out after six months.

He didn't leave right away, though. He listened in on classes, including one that would inspire a lifelong mission of elegant design - a course on calligraphy.

Back in California
By late 1974, Jobs was back in California. He and Wozniak started working together on projects, with Woz the tech genius and Jobs the brash ideas man. An early effort was a "blue box" - a device that taps into the phone system to make free long-distance calls. It worked.

Wozniak began putting together a contraption he and Jobs could show off to their buddies. The Apple I was little more than a motherboard, the main circuit board in a personal computer. Whoever bought one - Woz and Jobs sold 50 to a local hobby store - had to supply their own case to hold the circuitry, not to mention a keyboard and monitor.

They knew they could build a better computer, and Jobs knew people would buy it.

Apple's Start
The pair officially began Apple Computer on April 1, 1976.

Twelve months later the company introduced the Apple II. It was a hit and became the first widely used home computer. The company's sales reached US$117 million in 1980, the year the company went public.

The Apple II was hardly a technological great leap forward, nor was it alone in the marketplace.

What set Apple apart was its charismatic frontman, Jobs, who was rapidly turning into a business superstar. He hyped. He dated singer Joan Baez and actress Diane Keaton. He saw himself and his company as an anti-establishment force, waging a noble campaign to battle the faceless power of IBM.

Us-versus-IBM was the guiding worldview behind the famous TV commercial that introduced Apple's next major product, the Macintosh. The 60-second spot, directed by Ridley Scott, ran only once, during the 1984 Super Bowl. It depicted an Orwellian world of grim conformity. A lone woman sprints through the greyness and throws a hammer through a giant screen, shattering the droning visage of Big Brother.

'Down to Taste'
The Mac, with its mouse and graphics, demonstrated Jobs' ability to see the potential of new technologies and package them in a way that would appeal to the most demanding aesthete he could imagine: himself.

Jobs had first seen a graphical user interface prototype a few years earlier on a visit to Xerox Corp, and immediately knew it was the future of computing. He had no compunction about copying the idea.

"Ultimately it comes down to taste," Jobs said in Triumph of the Nerds. "It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things in to what you're doing. I mean, Picasso had a saying. He said, 'Good artists copy. Great artists steal."'

Inscrutable Autocrat
The Mac project showed another side of Jobs: the inscrutable autocrat. He could be charming and rude almost in the same sentence, leaving underlings scared or dazzled or both.

Andrea Cunningham, who helped market the Mac in the 1980s, says Jobs' intolerance of aesthetic infractions never let up. Cunningham was with Jobs in his New York hotel room when he began yelling about a particular flower he wanted - a calla lily.

"He was being such a pill," says Cunningham "I found a florist. I found the calla lilies. And the next thing was a bowl of strawberries on the piano. And a separate bowl of whipped cream. We spent three or four hours doing this."

Jobs could bewitch too, as he did when he hired PepsiCo executive John Sculley to be Apple's CEO in 1983. Jobs famously asked him, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

But the Mac didn't sell well during the 1984 holiday shopping season, and after a boardroom dispute, Jobs was out.

'Toy Story'
In 1985 he founded NeXT, which developed a powerful computer based on the Unix operating system. The computers were too expensive to gain a wide following, but the software developed at NeXT would later provide the technological underpinnings for Apple machines.

The following year, Jobs bought George Lucas' computer-graphics shop for US$10 million and renamed it Pixar. The studio's first feature film, Toy Story, was the top-grossing film of 1995, and kicked off an unbroken string of hits. Walt Disney bought Pixar in 2006 for US$8.06 billion and gave Jobs a seat on the company's board. He became Disney's largest shareholder.

Jobs' absence from Apple coincided with the ascendance of Bill Gates and Microsoft, developer of a graphics-driven operating system of its own called Windows. Apple filed, and eventually lost, a lawsuit against Microsoft, arguing that Windows was a Mac knockoff.

When Jobs got wind of Microsoft's plans for what would become Windows, he screamed at Gates about ripping Apple off, according to a 1983 essay by Andy Hertzfeld, the Mac's chief software designer.

Gates coolly replied, "It's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it," wrote Hertzfeld, who witnessed the interchange.

Meanwhile, Apple was dying. By late 1997, it had racked up two years of losses and the Mac's share of the PC market was in the single digits and falling. On stage at a conference that year, Michael Dell was asked how he would revive Apple if he were CEO.

'Shut It Down'
'"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders," he said. Jobs would later say the company was 90 days from bankruptcy.

In desperation, Apple agreed to buy NeXT for US$400 million in late 1996, and Jobs accepted a role as adviser. Within seven months, Jobs was once again running the company.

As a show of Jobs' not-in-it-for-the-money drive to fix Apple, he insisted on getting paid US$1 a year, a salary package that continued for the remainder of his career.

Jobs' remuneration instead came mainly from stock options, restricted stock and an US$84 million Gulfstream V jet, given to him by the board in 2000.

Jobs' Worth
Jobs' net worth was at least US$6.7 billion as of September 6, according to estimates from the Bloomberg news service.

When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he was still an exacting connoisseur of design. Only now, he demonstrated an understanding that he needed to place his bets carefully. He culled the company's product line, killing money-losing projects such as the Newton personal digital assistant.

The first tangible result of Jobs' return was the iMac, which he introduced in 1998. The iMac looked like no other computer: It was a bulbous, sci-fi looking number encased in glowing translucent plastic.

The decision to offer the computer in five colors flew in the face of the then-common industry practice of packaging machines in easy-to-manufacture - if dull - beige boxes. It would become Apple's best-selling desktop ever, according to the company.

Series of Blockbusters
Apple was profitable again by 1998, and over the next decade released a series of blockbusters that went beyond traditional computing. The iPod media player and the iPhone were beautiful objects that ignited consumer lust in Apple's sparsely elegant - and typically crowded - retail stores.

Doing Jobs' Bidding
The other big achievement was Jobs' ability to create hits by getting industry partners to do his bidding. For the iTunes music store, he not only demanded that the major music labels sell their product over the internet, but do so at a single price, 99c a song. He convinced AT&T to modify its network to handle the iPhone's many features in exchange for exclusive rights to sell the iPhone to US buyers.

Apple's iPhone became the world's best-selling smartphone in the second quarter of this year.

Cancer Diagnosis
Jobs said in 2004 that he had been diagnosed and treated for a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas. After surgery to remove an islet cell tumor, he took a month off to recuperate and declared himself healthy and cancer free.

One person who knew him well said that the cancer scare didn't slow him down, convince him to spend more time with family or reconnect with friends.

'Follow Your Heart'
In 2005 Jobs described how the inevitability of death was a motivating force in his life.

"Remembering 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," he said.

Jobs' appearance changed noticeably by early 2008. He started looking gaunt. Tech blogs bubbled with discussion about what was going on. In January 2009 Jobs said his weight loss was caused by a "hormone imbalance"; nine days later, he began a five- month medical leave. Later that year he underwent a liver transplant.

While Jobs was on leave that year, Apple came under competitive pressure from an unexpected source: Google. The search giant, whose then-CEO Eric Schmidt was an Apple board member, had entered the smartphone business with its Android operating system.

Unlike the iPhone, Android phones were made by multiple manufacturers. The budding rivalry evoked the Mac vs PC showdowns of the 1980s. It pitted a company - Apple - that made one kind of device against an array of manufacturers orbiting around a software operating system - in this case, Google's Android.

Return to Work
By the time Jobs returned to work in June, several Android devices were on the market. Schmidt resigned from Apple's board in August, acknowledging the escalating tension between the two companies.

The following year Jobs introduced his next epoch-making product: the iPad. The run-up was full of the buzz that greeted past products. What would it look like? What would it do?

Only a select handful of developers and media companies got access to pre-release versions of the iPad, and then only under strict conditions. Recipients had to agree to keep the devices tethered to a fixed object in rooms with blacked-out windows.

'Antennagate'
At the product unveiling, Jobs said the tablet computer would go on sale later that year, calling it "magical." The public agreed: Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads on day one, and within a few months the device had a near monopoly share of the tablet market that companies led by Microsoft had failed to crack for a decade.

Another momentous product was in store for 2010. The iPhone 4 boasted a glass front and back and a brushed-steel band around the edge. It also came with a front-facing camera that would allow mobile videoconferencing.

While the iPhone 4 was destined for success, this time there was a glitch. Customers who held the phone a certain way experienced dropped phone calls - the "death grip," it was called. At first, Apple denied anything was wrong and suggested that customers were holding the phone incorrectly. The flaw snowballed into a public-relations crisis that came to be known as "Antennagate," stoked by longtime grumbling over service quality on the network of AT&T, then the only US iPhone carrier.

By July, Jobs had changed his tune. He apologised to customers and offered free "bumpers," rubber cases that fit around the metal edge of the phone, so that fingertips wouldn't cause any antenna interference.

The imbroglio had little impact on iPhone demand. Apple sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s during the first three days it was on sale; by the end of the year the iPhone would represent nearly 40 per cent of revenue.

During the introduction of a new MacBook Air in October 2010, Jobs appeared thinner than ever. Three months later he said he would be taking a new leave of absence to "focus on my health."

"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can," he said.

Jobs announced his resignation on August 24. "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that day has come."

In the weeks preceding his resignation, Jobs was largely housebound, according to a person familiar with the matter.

"Apple has not only revolutionised the computer industry but also transformed how the world communicates, plays, shops and works," Frank Quattrone, CEO of investment bank Qatalyst Partners said at the time.

Tim Cook became CEO for good. While Cook had mastered an expanding list of operational roles, he had not demonstrated Jobs's penchant for product vision.

Post-Jobs Era
In the post-Jobs era, that role would lie more squarely with head product designer Jonathan Ive, who oversaw the development of devices including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Rounding out the executive team are Scott Forstall, who is in charge of the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad; Philip Schiller, who leads product marketing; Bob Mansfield, who heads Mac hardware engineering; and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, who is tasked with overseeing Apple's more than US$75 billion in cash and long-term holdings.

Jobs left a company with a market value larger than that of Microsoft and Dell combined. Apple's revenue reached a record US$65 billion in the 2010 financial year, with analysts predicting that it will exceed US$100 billion in 2011.

'Magical' Thinking
Besides relying on surging demand for the iPhone and iPad, Apple is also counting on growth in China.

"We're just scratching the surface right now," Cook said of the region in July.

The company is also due to sell its new iCloud service that will let users access content across an array of Apple products.

The Apple Jobs left behind was well suited to confront the challenges it then faced, including Google, largely because of a product lineup Jobs set in motion, analysts and investors said at the time of his resignation. The concern is whether the company can produce industry-disrupting devices long after Jobs' influence recedes.

"I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste," Bill Gates said 2007.

"The way he does things is just different and, you know, I think it's magical."

- Bloomberg