No. 2 tech story of 2011: The decline and death of Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder finally succumbs to cancer in October at age 56

This is the 10th post for "My personal, hand-selected top 11 tech stories of 2011." You can read the first nine by clicking on the links at the bottom.

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Steve Jobs was an historical figure, of that there is no doubt. The Apple products his vision inspired and his force of will rendered real -- the Mac computer, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad -- have helped redefine our culture.

Jobs died on October 5 at age 56 after a long struggle with cancer, leaving behind the most valuable technology company in the world (currently worth $376.5 billion), millions of devoted, almost worshipful fans of Apple products, and a reputation for being a bit of a bastard.

Oh, and plans for a spaceship-shaped headquarters. It was one of his dreams and, as Jobs became increasingly aware that the disease inside him was rapidly hastening his demise, he focused on preserving what he had so carefully and determinedly built since his return from exile in the late '90s.

Ignoring demands from shareholders that Apple reveal a CEO "succession strategy," Jobs already had been grooming COO Tim Cook to take his place. Cook became interim CEO in January, when Jobs announced he was taking an indefinite medical leave of absence to focus on this health.

Fleeting glimpses of Jobs in public in ensuing months made clear that he was gravely ill. A weak-voiced Jobs in June presented his spaceship headquarters plans to the Cupertino (Calif.) City Council. Only the most optimistic among us thought Jobs might return full-time as Apple's chief executive.

That hope ended on August 24, when Jobs sent a memo to Apple employees announcing he was permanently resigning as CEO and urging the board of directors to choose Cook as his successor.

Nearly six weeks later, on October 5, Steve Jobs was dead.

The global mourning was pronounced and prolonged. A weird cult built up around the biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, with whom Jobs cooperated fully in his final months and which was rush-released after Jobs died and which quickly became a bestseller.

The book details Jobs's extraordinary accomplishments, but also paints a portrait of a driven perfectionist who could be needlessly rude to people and cruel to employees. Jobs urged Isaacson to pull no punches and to talk with the many enemies Jobs had made in Silicon Valley over the years.

But the book also illuminated Jobs's generous nature, his love of his family, and his genuine devotion to the company he built and to the ideals he valued.

It's a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man who, his flaws notwithstanding, made the world a better place.

Top 11 tech stories of 2011 linksNo. 11: Netflix's public suicide art project No. 10: The cloud rises No. 9: Tales of tablet triumph, tragedy No. 8: Patent wars No. 7: The social 'bubble' No. 6: Meet the new boss No. 5: HP's meltdown No. 4: AT&T's $4 billion blink No. 3: Seismic smartphone shift
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