Steve Jobs: A Pop Culture Icon

If pop culture were a team sport, Steve Jobs would have played the quarterback. He may not have recorded a song, never directed a film, never made a TV show, and never wrote a book – but he became a pop culture icon in the latter part of the 20th century until his death, because he became a man who did more than any music, film, TV, books or games to change the culture. One would go all the way back to Walt Disney to find a CEO with as big impact on the culture as Jobs.

From inventing iTures to Apple products, to offering the first full-length computer-generated animated film – Jobs have left indelible fingerprints on the entertainment industry. He’s a visionary and an innovator held on the pedestal with the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.

While he’s best known as the former chief executive officer of Apple, Jobs also had a profound effect on the world outside technology.

Here are the ways Steve Jobs redefined pop culture:

He brought the famous Apple products to the world.

Steve Jobs did not invent the personal computer, the laptop, the portable music player, the tablet, or the smartphone. He didn’t even produce the best versions of those devices. But he did pioneer inventions that changed the way the world consumed media.

If you list down all the things that changed entertainment over the past 20 years and it would be dominated by things from Apple, and by extension, Steve Jobs. The iMac turned home computer into a home entertainment center. iPod and iTunes revolutionized the music industry. The iPhone and the iPad have made entertainment portable. These Apple devices became such a part of pop culture, and nobody was ever devoted to a TV set the way people are devoted to stuff Apple makes.

While there are other mobile phones, tablets, and mini computers that support gaming and entertainment, but it was the iPhone and the iPad that had the real cache. Because of iPhones, iPads and iPods, people have been able to take films, TV, books, and music out of the home and on the road for some time. The iPad convinced people that they really needed to have entertainment at their fingertips on a 24/7 basis. In a 2001, presentation, Jobs said, “To have your whole music library with you at all times is a quantum leap in listening to music. How can we possibly do this?” A moment later, he pulled the first iPod from his pocket to reveal the answer.

Released in 2001, the iPod was widely recognized as the first user-friendly gadget that allows access to music on the go. Back then, consumers used portable radios, CDs or tape players for listening to audio remotely prior to widespread access to mp3 files. In 2007, Jobs’ next big product launch was the iPhone, which combined the features of an iPod with those of a phone and a computer. The iPhone allowed users to make calls, text, listen to music, and browse the internet on one touchscreen-capable device. The marketing of iPhone was widely successful, that every year Apple launches a new device, people come queueing in for the latest release. The iPhone also became the fastest-growing obsession, as people spent more time consuming media via the smartphone, which iPhone is one of the global leaders.

Taking the cue from the iPhone, Jobs and Apple created the first touchscreen tablet without a keyboard. A hybrid between an iPhone and a laptop, the iPad was first introduced in 2010 and has been an insanely popular tablet computer ever since.

What made Jobs a popular culture icon is how his Apple technology was adopted and how it revolutionized technology. What he did was pushed all of those techy devices forward, and particularly in the case of iPod, iPad and iPhone, it was certain that Apple transformed them from something hobbyists had to something almost everybody had.

The “toys” he helped create not only changed how the world consumed media, but inserted both Jobs and his company Apple firmly into the entertainment zeitgeist.

He founded iTunes.

One of Job’s biggest launches happened in 2003 with the release of the iTunes Music Store, which revolutionized the world of music downloads. While other companies have already made digital music available on computers and digital phones, Apple – more specifically, Jobs – made it exciting, simple, fun, and effortless.

Because of iTunes, Jobs became a major influence on portable media, which paved the way for gamers to engage in their favorite past time using handheld devices, and for film watchers to be able to stream music almost everywhere. Plus, the ability of the iPod, and later the iPhone and iPad, to contain thousands of songs also meant that music enthusiasts never had to be far from their tunes. It meant that people can put their whole music collection in their pocket.

The music business today has a complex relationship with Apple, which has become another entity that built a big business atop the rights of music companies, like radio and MTV before it.

He turned Pixar into a world leader in animated feature films.

In 1986, Jobs acquired Lucasfilms’ Computer Graphics Division, and it proved to be a wise investment. The company was about to fail, and Jobs rescued it and completely changed the face of film animation. The potential he saw in the company, which was later renamed Pixar, paid off when he sold it to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion.

Before the mid-1990s, Disney was the gold standard of full-length animated feature films, and it wasn’t until Toy Story became a huge hit in 1995 that Pixar landed on the map. With every subsequent film, Pixar gained more traction and created a whole new animation industry in Hollywood.

Jobs did not have expertise in graphic design and video production, but he believed that Pixar’s computer technology and animation would one day match and rival with Disney’s. His biggest impact was on the strategic leadership and direction of the company, including the overseeing and leading of Pixar’s IPO in 1995. The investment capital that Pixar received from going public gave him the freedom to rapidly expand the company. Many people attest that Jobs’ vision for Pixar gave the company the support and drive it needed to flourish.

Since Toy Story, Pixar produced a string of highly-acclaimed, blockbuster animated movies like A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Cars, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Up, Wall-E, Ratatoulle, and of course, the sequels to Toy Story.

The success of Pixar was also credited to Jobs who let creative boss John Lasseter and other talented filmmakers loose on an unsuspecting Hollywood. Today, Pixar is recognized as one of the most influential film studios worldwide.

He founded NeXT.

Most people would associate Jobs with Apple, but in the early days of the company, Jobs’ relationship with Apple was a rocky one. After getting fired from the company he founded, Jobs founded NeXT, a company that created computers for educational and business needs.

While NeXT wasn’t a big commercial success, the company still is an integral part of computers today. Portions of NeXTSTEP operating systems still exist within Mac and OSX. Also, the famous “Wolfenstein” and “Doom” computer games were written and created on NeXTcube computers.

In 1990, a NeXT computer was used in creating the World Wide Web, which was invented by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee.

He made a conscious effort to help save the environment.

Apple products are not only innovative and upscale, but they are also environmentally friendly. Jobs promoted an initiative to use environmentally-friendly products during his time as the Apple CEO. Apple uses materials such as recycled aluminum, plastics and papers in its products to conserve resources. Likewise, Apple products are also Energy Star qualified, which means it follows the requirements set by the EPA for energy efficiency.