What did Steve Jobs think of Dropbox?

Steve Jobs: How he kept reinventing the computer

Steve Jobs died yesterday at the age of 56. He lost the seven year battle against cancer. Jobs is considered one of the greatest inventors and pioneers of new technologies of our time. With him is a man who has influenced the development of desktop PCs, cell phones, MP3 players and tablets like no other. Steve Jobs is often referred to as an operating system development guru. Mac OS, NeXTStep and iOS are essentially developed by him.

Although Jobs knew how to use a compiler, he did not program much himself. His main focus was always to make technical devices usable for everyone - even without a degree in computer science. The basic operating system with drivers, process and memory management and basic command line tools was never the subject of Steve Jobs' interest. It was important to him that a computer does what the user expects when he clicks on an icon with the mouse.

Jobs' vision has always been that anyone who turns on the computer can immediately work productively with it without any prior knowledge. Not only Steve Jobs had this vision, but also numerous competitors. But he is one of the few who had enough technical understanding as well as enough empathy for people who do not think in numbers and formulas.

Steve Jobs did not start from scratch either: In 1979 he visited the legendary Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), where numerous fundamental inventions were made that are taken for granted on every desk today. These include the mouse, the graphical user interface with windows and the PostScript page description language, which was later sold to Adobe and is now known to most as PDF in a slightly modified and modernized form.

In a television interview he later said that this visit was the most inspiring experience in his life for him. Since then, he has been obsessed with the idea of ​​building a desktop computer that is completely intuitive to use and does not require a command line.


The research computer Xerox Alto inspired Steve Jobs (source: Wikimedia, license: public domain).

At Xerox he was shown the Xerox Alto research computer. It had 64 Kbytes of main memory and could be expanded up to 256 Kbytes. The computer also had a removable hard drive with a capacity of 2.5 Mbytes. It was also the size of a small refrigerator.

The screen was set up in portrait format. In addition to processing data, Xerox was primarily concerned with how it was presented. The end result should be a printable document. Portrait orientation should be able to display a US letter or A4 document as it will later look on paper. The term WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) was born.

In 1979 a personal computer with 64 to 256 Kbytes was out of the question. That would have been way too expensive. A hard drive in a PC was also a utopia back then. First in 1981 Xerox tried to bring out a commercial PC with the new system, but failed miserably with the Xerox Star. In the same year, IBM launched its first PC, accompanied by a lot of marketing, and was successful.


Apple Lisa failed in the market. At around DM 30,000, the computer was far too expensive (source: Wikimedia, license: CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Steve Jobs and Apple also failed their first attempt. Apple licensed the graphical user interface and Postscript and launched the Apple Lisa in 1983. Lisa was not just a copy of the licensed interface, but involved a lot of work Steve Jobs put into making it usable.

The Apple boss found that a three-button mouse confused the user and one button should be enough. To this day, Apple has built its mice in such a way that the individual buttons are not visible, although a second button and the mouse wheel have now also arrived at Apple.

The operating system was called Lisa OS. According to Apple, Lisa means "Local Integrated Software Architecture". It is likely, however, that Jobs’s eldest daughter was namesake.

The basic configuration with 512 kByte RAM and two 5.25-inch floppy disk drives cost Lisa 9995 dollars. At that time that was equivalent to about DM 30,000. At this price, Apple could not sell a significant amount.

What is incompatible with today's e-waste laws saved Apple a lot of taxes back then. Steve Jobs had 2,700 Apple Lisas buried in the Utah desert and documented this action for the US tax authorities. This enabled 100 percent of the unsalable inventory to be written off immediately.

Finally commercially successful: the first Macintosh

In 1984 Apple came out with a cheaper device, the Apple Macintosh. It only had 128 Kbytes of memory and only one floppy disk drive. In addition, the monitor was very small at 9 inches. The first 'Mac' cost only 2495 dollars, which was about 7200 DM. In Germany, however, the sales price was around 10,000 DM.

The operating system was simply called "System". The name Mac OS was only used from System 7.5.1 onwards. Steve Jobs had again introduced revolutionary innovations. Files were not deleted but moved to the trash. You could get them out there as long as you didn't empty the wastepaper basket. There was also a multi-level undo function in all pre-installed applications. Anyone who accidentally deleted a paragraph in a document could easily restore it.

The menu bar, already known from Lisa OS, which is always at the top of the screen and not in the application window, was mandatory on the 9-inch screen of the Macintosh. This saves space when several windows are open at the same time. The uniform menu bar is still a trademark of Mac OS today.

The Macintosh was a complete success and represented serious competition to the IBM PCs and their clones, which were already dominant at the time. But the competitors weren't asleep at the time and they too had a look around the Xerox PARC.

Microsoft and Digital Research come up with imitations

Microsoft already presented the prototype of an "Interface Manager" for MS-DOS in November 1983 and brought the product onto the market exactly two years later under the name Microsoft Windows. Former Xerox PARC employee Lee Jay Lorenzen founded Digital Research (DRI) and developed a clone of the Xerox PARC surface, which was first called GSX and later GEM. The x86 version was sold from February 1985.

While GEM and the Macintosh operating system of that time were like one another, Microsoft initially failed to implement overlapping windows. In terms of API, the Windows GDI and the Mac operating system were almost identical. In modern Mac OS X versions, the original API under the name Carbon has survived to this day, but is only used as a migration path for old applications. Windows also still has the GDI, but it is increasingly being replaced by Direct2D and DirectX.

Unlike Apple, Microsoft and DRI did not pay any royalties to Xerox, which resulted in a long-standing process that ended in a settlement. The main result was that only Apple was allowed to use the term “trash”. Microsoft used the name “Recycle Bin” for Windows, IBM used the incorrect word “Shredder” in OS / 2 and GEM had a “Waste Basket”.

Dispute over the further development of Mac OS: Steve Jobs founds NeXT

Apart from the dispute with DRI and Microsoft, Steve Jobs worked on the further development of the graphical user interface. He designed a system that is based on Unix and can handle real multitasking as well as offering memory protection between processes. Several applications should be able to work on one document at the same time. In addition, the surface should be completely object-oriented.

So that Jobs could concentrate better on further development, he brought Pepsi CEO John Sculley to Apple in 1983, who was initially not interested in a senior position at Apple. It was only when Jobs uttered the famous phrase, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or have the chance to change the world," that Sculley took off.

But Sculley came from the beverage industry and had little understanding of Jobs ‘further developments of the operating system and the user interface. A successful drink like Pepsi Cola has hardly seen any recipe changes over the decades. For the computer industry, however, this mindset is deadly.

A bitter power struggle ensued between Sculley and Jobs, which ended with Jobs leaving Apple in 1985 and setting up NeXT. This separation did Apple very well for the years that followed. Under Sculley, the Apple Laserwriter, an inexpensive laser printer with Postscript, was brought onto the market. In addition, AppleTalk cards were developed with their own protocol, which allowed inexpensive networking. Ethernet was still very expensive back then.

Sculley also switched from the Motorola 680 × 0 CPUs to PowerPC processors, which were then jointly developed by Apple, IBM and Motorola.

A computer for Steve Jobs: no interest in commercial success

For Steve Jobs, the expulsion was arguably the most bitter experience of his life to date. He didn't talk about it for a long time. In general, he didn't think much of talking about his private life in public. He usually only started interviews with journalists at ten minutes.

It was not until he gave a lecture at Stanford University in 2005 when he was already suffering from cancer that he said that at the age of 20 he found the love of his life with Apple. At the age of 30 he was released and still continued with NeXT.

Steve Jobs, however, officially didn't want to know anything about Apple during his NeXT time. He sold all but one of the stocks. He also swore from commercial success. With unmistakable bitterness, he announced that he would use the NeXT to develop a computer that he personally wanted. It doesn't matter to him whether others want to buy this computer. He later stated that he had never had any interest in being the richest dead man in a cemetery. Fulfillment for him is to go to bed in the evening with the certainty of having created something wonderful.

He used the Mach microkernel developed by Rick Rashid as the basic operating system. As it turned out that some functions were missing, such as SMP support and other functions ran very slowly, he had his employees implement such functions from parts of the BSD Unix kernel. This is how the Darwin hybrid kernel came about.

He chose Objective-C as the programming language. This is a superset from C, which has been expanded with concepts from Smalltalk. Low-level routines in C and complex high-level operations, such as those known from Visual Basic, for example, can be mixed as desired in the source code. To do this, Jobs invented an object-oriented layer for applications, so that his vision of independent applications that jointly designed a document became a reality.

While the commercial success of the NeXT Cube, as the first computer with the NeXTStep OS was called, failed to materialize, the computer was an insider tip for connoisseurs. They had a real Unix operating system with which graphical and easy-to-use applications could be created quickly. But it wasn't limited by the inadequacies of Windows 95 and Mac OS System 7 and their successors, which lacked preemptive multitasking and memory protection. Jobs later also released a version for standard PCs called NeXTStep / 486.

In 1990, on a NeXT Cube, Tim Berners Lee made the most important invention of the 20th century, the World Wide Web, often incorrectly referred to as the Internet.

Later on, NeXTStep also seemed certain of commercial success. Jobs was able to win Sun as a partner who wanted to convert their Solaris operating system to NeXTStep. It was less about the Darwin kernel and more about Objective-C and the object-oriented application framework. But Sun later jumped out in favor of Java.

Steve Jobs saves Apple from ruin with NeXTStep

Jobs was always able to keep NeXT afloat, whether on his own or through his extremely successful company Pixar, which he founded in 1986, is an open question. However, Apple has been going downhill since 1993. John Sculley last drove an unfortunate marketing strategy and was replaced by Michael Spindler in 1993. This was followed in 1996 by Gil Amelio.

Amelio made several attempts to modernize Mac OS. This was urgently needed because it became clear that Apple would soon no longer compete with Windows 95 and 98, but with Windows NT, a modern operating system, albeit with numerous quirks. For example, Windows NT 4.0 still lacked USB support, which was only introduced with Windows 2000.

As a last resort, Apple offered to hire Steve Jobs again. Since leaving Apple, he had actually done nothing at NeXT other than consistently developing the graphical user interface that he saw for the first time in the Xerox PARC.

So it came about that Apple bought NeXT in 1996 for $ 429 million. Steve Jobs initially worked as a consultant and replaced Amelio as CEO in 1997. At that time he initially called himself i-CEO. the "i" stood for "interim". Job's plan was to equip Macintosh computers with NeXTStep. But that meant that all previous applications no longer ran on the new Mac operating system.

The already ailing company had to motivate its developers to rewrite all applications for the new Mac OS, which is actually NeXTStep. This also required financial incentives.

Help from personal friend and business arch rival

Steve Jobs asked his old personal friend and business arch-rival Bill Gates for help, who also granted it. At Macworld 1997, Jobs announced a special guest who was switched to the big screen via video conference. When the attendees saw Bill Gates, they spontaneously booed him.

Gates, unsurprised and as always factual, announced that Microsoft would invest 150 million dollars in Apple in the form of non-voting preferred shares and also work with Apple on further versions of Office for Macintosh. The financial injection was rather small. But Microsoft's commitment was a signal for other developers to remain loyal to Apple.

Little is known that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were good friends personally. Commenting on Steve Jobs' death, the Microsoft co-founder said today, “Steve and I first met almost 30 years ago, and we've been colleagues, competitors, and friends for more than half of our lives. The fruits of Jobs ‘Labor will be reaped by many generations to come. For those of us who were lucky enough to be able to work with him, it was an incredibly great honor. "

Jobs then worked on the "Rhapsody" project, the first NeXTStep implementation to be called Mac OS X. The user interface was modified to mimic that of Mac OS 9. Rhapsody also had an emulation layer that could run Mac OS 8 programs, but not Mac OS 9 programs.

There was a lot of work to be done. Finally, technologies like QuickTime and AppleScript had to be integrated into Rhapsody. For desktop computers, however, Rhapsody was never released. It was released in 1999 as Mac OS X Server 1.0.

It wasn't until 2001 that Apple came out with Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah”. It no longer had an emulation layer for older Mac programs. New technologies were implemented for this, such as quartz, to support modern 3D graphics cards. With the Carbon interface, which emulated the old APIs from the Xerox PARC times, software manufacturers were able to port their applications successfully.

The NeXTStep framework was renamed Cocoa, but still today all Cocoa APIs and data types start with the letters NS like NeXTStep, for example NSNumber, NSLog and so on. In 2001 Jobs was able to celebrate the commercial success of his 15 years of work for the first time. In the same year iPod and iTunes came on the market. iTunes is now the largest music store in the world, selling more music online than it is on CDs.

In 2004, Jobs received the shocking diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The doctors initially gave him three to six months. But on the same day, a biopsy brought new hope: it is a very rare form that an operation could perhaps cure. However, the doctors could only add seven years to Jobs' life.

A year later, he said he had wondered every day since the diagnosis whether he had lived like it was his last. And if the answer is no, he'll change his plan. In fact, he changed the way he worked. So far, he has built on the tried and tested, such as the Xerox PARC interface, and improved things to perfection. After that, he questioned many things and changed them radically.

The best example of this is likely to be the iPhone. Jobs didn't like the idea of ​​a cell phone from companies like Nokia and Motorola. Microsoft also did not approve of how Microsoft combined Pocket PCs and cell phones with Windows Mobile. So he developed his own smartphone, which was later more or less copied with Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and WebOS.

First, however, he changed the strategy for desktop computers in 2006: Macs were no longer equipped with PowerPC CPUs, but with Intel processors. All old applications continued to run via the Rosetta emulator, albeit at a significantly reduced speed.With that, the last hardware differences between Macs and PCs disappeared. Other PC-typical technologies such as USB and PCI had already found their way into the Mac platform.

NeXTStep on the mobile phone: the most successful smartphone in the world

Before the iPhone, the business smartphone market was essentially split between RIM and Microsoft. RIM made an excellent email machine with the Blackberry, but no apps could be downloaded.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system was hopelessly out of date. It suffered from essentially the same problems as Mac OS up to System 9: no real multitasking and no memory protection. In the case of a smartphone, this leads to a lot more sluggishness than a desktop computer because of the lower CPU performance.

Jobs recognized that the Darwin kernel and the Cocoa framework are quite suitable for common smartphone hardware based on ARM. As it turned out later, much better than Linux in terms of resource requirements. The first iPad with 256 MB main memory shows good performance. You don't even have to think about an Android device with less than 1 GByte today.

Jobs did make some compromises, such as not allowing two foreground applications to run at the same time, but with the first iPhone he presented a phone that many users had always wished for. One of the greatest successes was probably that Steve Ballmer complained that he saw lots of employees with iPhones on the Microsoft campus.

When developing the iPhone, the user interface and usability were much more important than the technology. Jobs did not make the mistake of porting a Mac user interface to the iPhone as closely as possible, but consciously paid attention to how content could be sent to the small screen as efficiently as possible.

With the iPhone, Jobs has turned the entire mobile communications industry upside down: Palm / WebOS has since given up. Nokia, the largest cell phone manufacturer in the world, is only a hardware supplier for smartphones for Windows Phone 7, the future of which is more than uncertain with a current market share of 1.6 percent. RIM is struggling with constantly falling market shares. Only Google was able to benefit with Android, as the market is looking for an inexpensive alternative to Apple's high-priced phones.

When it comes to tablets, no model can hold a candle to the iPad. Android honeycomb devices are considered sluggish and unstable. HP's technically better, but now discontinued touchpad suffers from the slow start of the apps and the fact that there are only a few apps.

On Tuesday, the new Apple CEO Tim Cook presented the iPhone 4S. Steve Jobs passed away a day later. Marc Andreessen, on the supervisory board of Apple competitor HP, which with WebOS could not stand against iOS, compared Jobs with Mozart and Picasso. He was the best of the best. Nobody will come close to his achievements.

Arch-rival Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt also commented: “Steve was so charismatically brilliant that he inspired people to do the impossible. He will be remembered as the greatest computer inventor in history. "

Note: The article originally appeared on August 25th and was updated on October 6th, 2011.