Apple announced the death of Jobs — whose legacy included the Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today," Apple said. "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve."
Photos: Steve Jobs 1955-2011
He had resigned as chief executive of Apple in August, after struggling with illness for nearly a decade, including a bout with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and a liver transplant six years later.
Few public companies were as entwined with their leaders as Apple was with Jobs, who co-founded the computer maker in his parents' Silicon Valley garage in 1976, and decades later — in a comeback as stunning as it seemed improbable — plucked it from near-bankruptcy and turned it into the world's most valuable technology company.
Jobs spoke of his desire to make "a dent in the universe," bringing a messianic intensity to his message that technology was a tool to improve human life and unleash creativity.
"His ability to always come around and figure out where that next bet should be has been phenomenal," Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, the high-tech mogul with whom Jobs was most closely compared, said in 2007.
In the annals of modern American entrepreneur-heroes, few careers traced a more mythic sweep. An adopted child in a working-class California home, Jobs dropped out of college and won the title "father of the computer revolution" by the age of 29. But by 30 he had been forced out of the company he had created, a bitter wound he nursed for years as his fortune shrank and he fought to regain his early eminence.
Once out of the wilderness of exile, however, he brought forth a series of innovations — unveiling them with matchless showmanship — that quickly became ubiquitous. He turned the release of a new gadget into a cultural event, with Apple acolytes lining up like pilgrims at Lourdes.
Jobs was born in San Francisco on Feb. 24, 1955, to Joanne Carole Schieble and Syrian immigrant Abdulfattah Jandali, unmarried University of Wisconsin graduate students who put him up for adoption. He was adopted by Paul Jobs, a high school dropout who sold used cars and worked as a machinist, and his wife, Clara.
Jobs' willfulness and chutzpah were evident early on. At 11, he decided he didn't like his rowdy and chaotic middle school in Mountain View, Calif., and refused to go back. His family moved to a nearby town so he could attend another school.
When he was 12 or 13, Jobs would recall, he called the home of William Hewlett, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard Co., to ask about parts he needed for a device he was building. For Jobs, it led to a humble summer job on a Hewlett-Packard assembly line, which he compared to being "in heaven."
While attending Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif., Jobs met Steve Wozniak, who was nearly five years older. A technical wizard who was in and out of college, Wozniak liked to make machines to show off to other tinkerers.
The two collaborated on a series of pranks and built and sold "blue boxes" — devices that enabled users to hijack phone lines and make free — and illegal — calls.
In 1972, Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Oregon after six months but lingered on campus, sleeping on friends' dorm-room floors. He sat in on classes that interested him, such as calligraphy, which later inspired him to offer Macintosh users multiple fonts, a feature that would become a fixture of personal computing.
He worked sporadically as an electronics technician at video game maker Atari Inc., traveled to India on a quest for enlightenment and found guidance from a Zen Buddhist master.
Meanwhile, Wozniak had created a computer circuit board he was showing off to a group of Silicon Valley computer hobbyists. Jobs saw the device's potential for broad appeal and persuaded Wozniak to leave his engineering job so they could design computers themselves.
In April 1976, the two launched Apple Computer out of Jobs' parents' garage, reproducing Wozniak's circuit board as their first product.