Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple in August 2011 implies the closing of a great era of history. Jobs is one of the most visible descendants of the Wright brothers, Orville and Willbur Wright, who made the first successful manned flight in an aircraft they had built themselves at the now iconic site of Kitty Hawk. The Wright brothers themselves go back in terms of aspiration and the spirit of achievement to the Pilgrim Brethren-commonly called Pilgrim Fathers, but since they had women why their description be localised to men- who fled from Europe to the United States of America to create a new society where they could pursue their religion without persecution, creating a frontier society against many odds.
The US was built on the back of the massacre, dispossession, disenfranchisement and ongoing marginalisation of the original inhabitants of the land, the Native Americans. The country was also built on the sweat of slave labour from Africa, creating a dehumanised class who are still struggling for direction centuries after the abolition of slavery and in the wake of the end only last century of the discriminatory Jim Crow laws that replaced slavery.
The availability of land, massive bodies of land acquired through cunning or force, and the access to labour at almost no price relative to its value, a labour situation sustained for centuries, contributed significantly to the platform on which the US was built.
In the midst of these massive advantages and their incalculable economic repercussions, the United Sates has been able to achieve a justified reputation in shaping the modern world through advances in technology. These advances often demonstrate the positive aspect of what is understood as the American Dream, the ideal of the possibility of achievement by anybody, regardless of any factors apart from the sheer quality of their effort.
Like any human society, the US is a class structured society. At the same time, however, class barriers seem to have proven to be more fluid than in Europe, where the earliest US immigrants came from. A demonstration of that fluidity is the achievement of people like Steve Jobs, who without any education beyond secondary school, developed, with Steve Wozniack, who subsequently dropped out of university, one of the earliest and most user friendly personal computers and operating systems, founding one of the computing world's most successful companies at time when the later eminences of Bill Gates and Microsoft, and the much later achievements of Google and Yahoo were undreamt of.
The achievement of Jobs and Wozniack in building the first Apple computer in Job's bedroom and Job's father's garage has become part of technology legend. It is part of the lustre of the concept of the technology start-up, in which from the union of ideas and ability demonstrated by a person with nothing but ideas and ability and a lot of the time, no money, and financial investment, a harmony between ideas, ability and money US industry is very good at, a tower that circles the world can be created, the latest in that example being Facebook which was born in the second year undergraduate dorm room of Mark Zuckerberg but has now become one of the worlds largest conglomerators of people and a decisive force in shaping the fates of nations, as shown by the Arab Spring still in progress, the cataclysmic revolutions reshaping the Arab world and future world history, in which Facebook has proven a central platform for mobilisation amongst dissidents and revolutionaries.
Also iconic is Jobs ouster from Apple in 1985 by John Sculley, the CEO he had brought on board. Also legendary is the creative drive the industry maestro continued to demonstrate even in exile from the company he founded. Even as a man by then stupendously rich, he most famously created, among other initiatives, NeXT Computer,a precursor in the interpersonal computing represented by the current culture of emails and listserves and an ideological forerunner to Ubiquitous Computing, a future racing towards actualisation in numerous reasearch initiatives in information technology, and became business director on Pixar, leading it to becoming one of the more original and memorable of Hollywood animation companies.
His return to Apple in 1996, 11 years later after his ouster, as the company was floundering, and reviving it into an industry leader recognisable by its own unique and yet constantly self regenerating brand, a brand of uncompromising style and innovative fecundity, means that Jobs belongs up there with some of history's most creative people, in an era when creativity and business acumen can mean the difference between forgotten brilliance and lasting recognition and profit.
Within Job's leadership, Apple has been a pacesetter in the information management industry, transforming its total control of hardware and software it works with into a constantly emerging range of of innovative devices, devices not cheap alongside comparable products but which their users will not exchange for anything else.
Success as a demonstration of sheer ingenuity, drive and resourcefulness in the face of all odds is the hallmark of what Steve Jobs represents.
In the framework shaped by the example he created, we locate Bill Gates, leaving university in his second year to found Microsoft, the founders of Yahoo and Google jumping ship from their PhdDs to found their globally defining companies, Mark Zuckerberg abandoning his degree in his second year to found Facebook, as well as the nexus of academia, technical innovation and financial enablement created by the Stanford University, Silicon Valley and venture capitalist nexus that drives US innovation in technology.