Michael Jerome Hawley was born on Nov. 18, 1961, at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base near Oceanside, Calif., to Mary Kay (Dixon) and George Hawley, and grew up in New Providence, N.J., about 17 miles west of Newark. While still in high school, he interned at Bell Labs, where his father was an electrical engineer. He also underwent years of formal training as a pianist and went on to study both music and computer science as an undergraduate at Yale, earning degrees in each.
After meeting Mr. Jobs in the lobby of Lucasfilm in the early 1980s, Mr. Hawley shared a house with him and spent six years at NeXT, which aimed to build a new kind of personal computer. For this machine Mr. Hawley built one of the first digital libraries. A friend of his had worked on a new edition of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” at Oxford University Press, so Mr. Hawley and Mr. Jobs flew to England to negotiate a deal for the digital files, offering $2,000 upfront and 74 cents for each personal computer sold.
When the NeXT machine was launched, Mr. Hawley added a dictionary, a thesaurus and a book of quotations — all now standard online fare.
In 2005, he helped write Mr. Jobs’s Stanford University commencement speech (“Stay hungry, stay foolish” was one of its much-quoted lines), which did much to define the Apple founder as an international celebrity in his last decade. Four years later, after meeting Mr. Page on a boat ride across San Francisco Bay, Mr. Hawley repeated the trick, writing the commencement speech that Mr. Page delivered at the University of Michigan.
After he joined the brand-new MIT Media Lab as a graduate student in 1985, Mr. Hawley lived in Mr. Minsky’s attic, and after finishing his Ph.D. he stayed on at M.I.T. as a professor.
In 1998, he served as the scientific director on an expedition to Mount Everest. Four years later, he tied for first place in the prestigious Van Cliburn amateur piano competition in Fort Worth, playing his own arrangement of a suite of pieces from “West Side Story.” (His selection of Broadway show tunes proved a controversial choice.)