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SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Jobs, who as co-founder and guiding light of electronics giant Apple Inc. was a key figure in digital technology and introduced many devices that have become entwined with modern life, died Wednesday. He was 56.
Mr. Jobs resigned as Apple chief executive officer six weeks ago, saying he could not perform his duties, ending a career of almost 35 years that saw hulking mainframe computers reduced to home desktops and consumers carrying mobile digital devices.
His career was sweeping, almost mythic, touching the computer, music, movie, and communications industries and often transforming them.
He died peacefully with family members at his side, according to a statement. A cause of death was not announced, but Mr. Jobs struggled with illness for nearly a decade, including a bout with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and a liver transplant six years later.
The nadir of his career came at 30, when he was booted out of the firm he founded. But he returned to Apple from exile and brought a flood of innovations, including the revitalization of the Macintosh.
Mr. Jobs was not a scientist or programmer, but a businessman and marketing genius with an uncanny knack for knowing what people wanted. "[His] ultimate significance was as a marketer," said David Barton, who teaches information sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. "Without that marketing genius, our world would be different."
Mr. Jobs was born in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 1955, to unmarried University of Wisconsin graduate students who put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Paul Jobs, a high school dropout, and his wife, Clara.
His interest in computers bloomed early and the first products he sold were "blue boxes" -- illegal devices that let users hijack phone lines and make free calls. The boxes were built by his friend Steve Wozniak.
Mr. Wozniak went on to build crude computers that appealed to hobbyists. But Mr. Jobs saw the potential and got Mr. Wozniak to leave his engineering job so they could design computers themselves. The Apple I debuted for $666.66. The next year came Apple II, which included a keyboard and monitor and stored programs on cassette tapes. It became the first widely purchased home computer.
When the company went public in 1980, the 25-year-old Jobs made $217 million.
In 1979, Xerox Corp. let Mr. Jobs and other Apple execs tour its Palo Alto Research Center in return for an option to buy 100,000 pre-IPO shares of Apple. PARC was a hotbed of computer innovation that developed the mouse, ethernet, graphical user interface, and laser printer, among other breakthroughs.
Mr. Jobs immediately saw the importance of these technologies, especially the mouse and graphical user interface.
Xerox had never capitalized on PARC's work but Apple began incorporating many of PARC's ideas into a business machine. The Apple Lisa was introduced in 1983 as the first Apple computer with a GUI (clicking on icons instead of writing obtuse instructions on a black screen), but it failed because of its high price and limited software.
Because of Apple infighting, Mr. Jobs was pushed from the Lisa team to head a small "rebel" group within the company working on a revolutionary machine for consumers, the Macintosh.
In 1985, Mr. Jobs was forced out of Apple and began his own computer company called NeXT.
Mr. Jobs bought the "Next" name from Chris W. Beroset of Toledo, who had incorporated and registered the name as part of his company, Next Systems Inc., in 1981. Mr. Beroset would not divulge how much Mr. Jobs paid for the name.
Although NeXT didn't succeed as a computer maker, Apple later bought it and Mr. Jobs returned to the company.
In 1986, Mr. Jobs paid $10 million for The Graphics Group, renamed Pixar, which contracted with Walt Disney Co. to make computer-animated films. Its first, Toy Story, debuted in 1995, and the rest is Hollywood history. Mr. Jobs sold Pixar to Disney in 2006.
Apple kept producing a slew of profitable devices. The MP3 player, the lightweight notebook computer, the tablet computer, the TV-Internet box had all been there for sale. But when Mr. Jobs introduced them as the iPod, the MacBook Air, the iPad, and the Apple TV, they sold by the millions.
This report includes information from Block News Alliance reporter Jonathan Silver, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ced Kurtz is a staff writer at the Post-Gazette.
Contact Ced Kurtz at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1764.