Bjorn Birk was born on January 3, 1954 in Stockholm, Sweden to a wealthy Swedish-German family. His father Aleksi Birk, was a businessman who was the owner of Birk Cement Company and shareholder of stocks in San Francisco, California as he contributed to the making of interstate highways during the 1950’s. His mother, Sherry Bauer, worked as an accountant at Handselbanken in the 1940’s before the two were married. At an early age, Bjorn was considered highly intelligent developing early skills for musical instruments. At the age of six, Birk and his mother moved to San Francisco, California for his education. In high school, Birk was the Valedictorian of his graduating class of 1971.
Birk attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon for Liberal Arts in Business. In his sophomore year, he met Steve Jobs through one of his colleagues at a fraternity party. According to Jobs, Birk in his drunk state, jokingly told him that given his intelligence, Jobs could revolutionize ideas such as the Personal Access Data Devices (PADDs) used in Star Trek, only it fits in the pocket (iPhone, 2007). The two never met again, as Jobs dropped out in 1972 after six months to pursue other work.
In the fall of 1973, Birk transferred to Harvard University to pursue his Master’s degree in Business Administration. He became friends with Paul Allen whom was a friend of Bill Gates. Having no plans in college, Gates spent most of his days with computers. Birk purchased a MIT Altair 8800 and Intel 8080 CPU as a gift for Allen and Gates because of their interest in computers. Gates dropped out of college to start a company. According to Allen, Birk jokingly said that computers would take over the world because of them (Microsoft, 1975).
In 1975, his parents were tragically killed in a flight during a business trip to Europe. Birk inherited the family fortune, but decided the family business was not for him. He traveled across Europe, Asia, and South America as he found pleasure in meeting new people and traveling to new places.
On January 4, 1979, he was killed by a drunk driver on his way home to Stockholm after spending the night at a friend’s house to celebrate his 25th birthday.
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