Demise of Steve Jobs provokes reaction unprecedented for a businessman's death

The tributes must run to a million pages. From the President of the United States and the titans of technology, to the crowds of ordinary people whose lives were made just that little bit better by the gadgets he created, Steve Jobs is being feted as one of history's greatest industrialists, entrepreneurs and visionaries.

In the 24 hours since his death was announced by his family and by Apple, the company he created at his parents' home in California in 1976, there has been an outpouring of love, admiration and support that is unprecedented for a business leader.

And as so many pointed out, Steven Paul Jobs was an unprecedented business leader.

"There may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented," said Barack Obama.

Mr Jobs' death, at 56, after a protracted battle with a rare pancreatic cancer, robs the world of a man who revolutionised computing with the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s, revolutionised it again in the past decade with the iPhone, and looks like revolutionising it one more time with the tablet iPad. Along the way he has upended the old way of doing things in the music industry and in the media, made consumers love the electronic devices in their pockets, and turned Apple into the largest technology company in the world, worth $350bn (£227bn).

Bill Gates, whose Microsoft was founded in the same wave of experimentation by computer hobbyists and with whom Mr Jobs has competed and collaborated throughout their parallel careers, echoed a phrase that Mr Jobs once used to describe the Macintosh computer and which had become his standard for every product that Apple would produce. It was, said Mr Gates an "insanely great" honour to have worked with him.

The two generations of technology pioneers who have come after him also paid their tributes. Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Jerry Yang of Yahoo called him a mentor and an inspiration. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, wrote simply: "Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world."

And business leaders, too, queued up to praise his impact on the world. Rupert Murdoch called him the best chief executive of his generation. Jeff Immelt of General Electric said: "He's the hero to everybody of this generation because he did something that I think is very hard, which is be both a dreamer and a doer."

Within hours of the announcement of his death, someone had laid flowers outside Apple's retail store in SoHo, Manhattan, and another had attached a printed picture of Mr Jobs to the wall of the midtown Apple Store with the message: "We love you, RIP."

Such tributes were repeated at Apple stores across the world. On the internet, people shared emotional responses and made creative tributes. News of his death even reached the International Space Station, where a trio of astronauts are living, working – and listening to music on iPods. "In every generation there are great thinkers and people that have the vision of what can be and then have the energy, the skill and the genius to make it happen," space station commander Mike Fossum said.

News of his death came in a short statement from the Jobs family, who said he passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. He is survived by his wife Laurene and their three children, and a daughter by a previous relationship.

In keeping with his habit of closely guarding his privacy and that of his family, their statement gave few details. Mr Jobs sometimes enraged shareholders in Apple by keeping information regarding his health such a closely guarded secret, particularly as rumours about his pancreatic cancer repeatedly moved the share price.

A biography by the author Walter Isaacson was due to be published in November, but a surge in pre-orders sent it to the top of the Amazon book charts and the publisher, Simon & Schuster, said it would be released early, by the end of this month.