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Tim Cook has led Apple for over a decade now, and he's done a pretty good job, helping it become the first trillion-dollar company ever. Many of us still think of Apple as Steve Jobs' company, since he helped Apple rise through a few dark periods to create successful products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and more. But before the late Apple co-founder was enshrined as a legendary technology CEO, Jobs resigned from the company he helped found 28 years ago to this day. Perhaps more surprising is that he was re-hired as Apple's boss 12 years later as part of a high-profile acquisition.

Following the success of the Apple II personal computer, the company (then called Apple Computer Co.) had an initial public offering in 1980. The company sold 4.6 million shares at $22 per share, according to Apple's Investor Relations page, becoming the most successful IPO since Ford Motor Co. Now bound by shareholders and a board of directors, the publicly held Apple would need new leadership. That's when Jobs snatched John Sculley away from Pepsi in 1983 to become Apple's CEO. What he didn't know at the time is that Sculley would be the one to threaten Jobs' power at Apple, leading to his resignation.

Steve Jobs' power struggles within Apple

Jobs always had a strong vision for the direction of Apple, and sometimes his passion (or arrogance) led to conflict within the company. After viewing a demonstration of the first graphical-user interface (GUI) at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, Jobs became convinced that all computers would one day be powered by GUIs. Jobs was right in the end, but at the time, this determination caused infighting within some of Apple's product team. This led to Jobs being thrown off the Apple Lisa product team — a computer named after his daughter — and the Apple co-founder forcibly taking control of the Macintosh team.

But Jobs and Sculley couldn't agree on the direction to take with the Macintosh. Jobs, always ambitious and driven, wanted to challenge industry-giant IBM for the business and enterprise market. On the other hand, Sculley was content with capturing the smaller education and consumer sectors, which were seen as more realistic. Since Jobs served as the chairman of Apple's Board of Directors, a board that had the power to fire and replace Sculley, the CEO didn't have the power to control him. Eventually, Scully took steps to remove Jobs from the Macintosh team and take away any power he had in Apple's day-to-day operations. After an unsuccessful attempt to oust Sculley as CEO and capture the top spot for himself, Jobs resigned on Sept. 16, 1985.

NeXT Computer & Jobs' comeback tour

NeXT cube computer on display.
Source: Michael Hicks via Wikimedia Commons

Jobs started NeXT Computer — and Pixar, the digital animation studio known for Toy Story and is now a part of Disney — during his time away from Apple. It took a few years for NeXT Computer to come up with its first product, which wouldn't be seen until 1988 and wouldn't become available until 1990. However, once it did finally debut, it was clear that NeXT under Jobs was far better at developing software than hardware.

Meanwhile, Apple was going through a rough patch. Apple didn't want to license its operating system to other PC manufacturers, which was the approach Microsoft took with Windows. After losing market share and experiencing turnover in Apple's corporate leadership, the company was near filing for bankruptcy. Instead, Apple's board of directors decided to purchase NeXT — and thus, Jobs — in a $400 million deal in 1996.

How Jobs' return created Apple as we know it today

Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 poster on MacBook Air M2

As a result of the deal, Jobs' NeXTSTEP operating system laid the foundations for Mac OS X, which is macOS today. After becoming Apple's CEO, Jobs created the company's first big hit since the original Macintosh with the iMac G3. Then, based on his love for music and specifically the Beatles, the iPod was born. From there, those two devices spurred the iPhone and iPad.

It might be strange to think that there was a time when Apple's own leadership wanted its most famous co-founder out of the picture, but on this day in 1985, that was true. The unfortunate situation set the table for what might be the most impressive comeback in the technology industry, both for Apple and Jobs.