How about them apples?

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PRINCE ALBERT — I've been a fan of Apple computers for a long time. When dad was looking to set up the farm books on computer in the early 1980s, we looked around and decided on an Apple II. It wasn't until a little later - 1984 - that the MacIntosh came out.

It had the design that still resonates in Macs today. It came all in one piece - a monitor attached to the guts, with a keyboard and a mouse as the only attachments. I'm typing this on an iMac that is an all-in-one design, with a keyboard and a mouse as the only attachments.

The sheer capability in computing since the MacIntosh came out is staggering. It had 64K of ROM and 128K of RAM. The Apple iPhone I use at work has 16G of memory - about 125,000 times as much as the MacIntosh had in RAM. The auditorium that Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, introduced the MacIntosh could not hold enough of the machines back then to equal the computing power we can hold in our hands.

Jobs is a college dropout who is regarded as a creative genius. He and Steve Wozniak, a brilliant engineer, founded Apple with about $1,300 in 1975. They raised the money by selling Jobs' Volkswagen micro-bus and Wozniak's scientific calculator.

Apple on Friday had a value somewhere in the neighbourhood of $350 billion - the growth in value of the startup capital is even greater than the increase in computing power. As of March, Jobs had a net worth in excess of $8 billion.

Such is the regard for Jobs by those who work with him that they joke he has a "reality distortion field" around him. He'll say stuff that, coming from another person, would be regarded as lunacy. But coming from Jobs it is genius and everyone wants to follow.

He left Apple shortly after the introduction of the MacIntosh and then returned several years later.

Now the big question for Mac lovers is what next? Or should that be, what NeXT? (If you get that, you know business history or you're a tech geek).

That's because on Wednesday, Apple announced that Steve Jobs was resigning. His replacement is a long-time executive with the company and Jobs, who's been on a medical leave of absence since earlier this year, will serve as chairman of Apple's board.

For techie types, this news was more shocking than Jack Layton's death. For most people, there is a lot of uncertainty about Apple's future without Jobs having a more direct role - the stock took a big hit.

One business report noted that the amount of innovation at Apple has been much higher in the years when Jobs was working there, which lends credence to the notion that he can create motivation as well as products.

Although most people know that Microsoft based its Windows user-interface on Apple's, not many know that Apple got its from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. Maybe that means that Jobs is not so much an originator of technology as much as he is one of those guys who can see all the pieces and think about how they can fit together into something innovative. In a way, he's been an interface himself - between the scientists and the average person, taking bits of electronics that run on binary code and making them hold all of our favourite songs and books.

As we head into the school season, if you have a friend who seems brilliant but drops out of university or college, make sure to keep in touch with him or her, especially if you feel reality being distorted in their presence.

Glass is the Herald's managing editor.

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