RIP Steve Jobs. But he still owes me.

My first Mac. Now languishing in my basement. Note the floppy stuck in the drive.

I’m writing this blog on my Apple laptop. That in itself is not particularly exciting, in that everybody and his dog uses a Mac these days. Apple is now considered the most valuable brand in the world, surpassing even giants like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Tim Hortons (Canadian ranking only). A recent survey of Canadians ranked Apple stores as the no. 1 retailer in such areas as customer service, merchandise quality, store layout and decor. (Oddly, the same survey ranked Apple in last place in terms of value for money. Apparently, people like to shop there, but not buy anything.)

Steve Jobs, the late, lionized genius behind the company, gets most of the credit for its rise to the pinnacle of the world’s brands. I, for one, will not deny him the accolades he so richly deserves. But, with all due modestly, I think I deserve a bit of the credit. Not a lot, mind you. Maybe one one-millionth of a percentage, but still. I’ve been with Apple for as long as I have used computers, which basically goes back to the beginning of the computer age. More importantly, I stayed with Apple when it looked like the company might disappear from the face of the earth, leaving loyal Appleists like myself and millions of others with useless piles of wires and whatever else goes into computers. The evidence of my undying loyalty to Apple can be found in my basement storage room, where thousands of dollars of now useless technology rests.

The next step up: the LC575. For some reason, still my favorite.

My first encounter with Apple came in 1985, as I recall. My brother Todd, who is what today we would call an early adaptor, dropped a small fortune on buying an Apple Macintosh. I thought it was absolutely amazing, even though it had less computing power than a child’s toy today. (The Mac Plus, introduced in 1986, had one meg of ram.) When I went to work at the Edmonton Examiner, we produced the paper on Macs that aren’t much bigger, or more powerful, than a toaster oven. I still have one of them that I — ahem — liberated from the Examiner when the company upgraded its computers. (Hey, it was either that, or throw it out. You might say I was an early environmentalist.)

When I finally got around to buying a real computer, I stayed with Mac and bought an LC535. When I showed it to my kids, it was like every Christmas they ever had rolled into one.

The problem with buying Apple was that, for some time, it was in serious danger of disappearing. Thanks to bad management decisions and high prices, sales were falling and so was its stock. As late as 1997, you could buy Apple stock for less than $14. (On Monday, it was selling for $326.60.) A lot of people were abandoning Apple, and when it came time to buy a new computer, I had a decision to make. Should I stay with the unquestionably superior Macintosh system and risk backing a company that might go bankrupt, leaving me with an expensive, huge and useless paperweight, or should I abandon ship (and my principles) and go to (shudder) Microsoft. At the time, everything regarding Mac looked bleak; slumping shares, slumping sales, and very little in the way of software. Even my brother Todd, who first championed Apple, left for the other side. (Todd also told me to buy a Betamax because it was superior technology, which it was. Many years later, I gave him my useless Betamax. Maybe that was his plan all along.)

After much soul-searching (I do my best soul-searching when money is involved), I opted to stay with Apple. The decision was made easier by the fact that Apple had introduced the iMac, the dazzling desktop computer that actually came in a number of colors, and became practically the universal symbol design for what a computer looked like. The iMac, which sold a million units a year and basically saved Apple, affirmed my faith in the company.

And, it’s in my basement as well.

Today, I have a different iMac on my desk in my home office (which is getting old and slow, kind of like its owner), and a laptop which I use about a thousand times a day. I am proud, well, just a little proud, that I was one of those who hung in there with Apple when so many others were abandoning it. In hindsight, however, I wish now that I had taken the thousands of dollars I poured into Apple products into Apple stocks.

In any event, thank you, Steve Jobs. You cost me a fortune, but you gave me a lot more in return.

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