Jobs' impact will be felt for generations

By Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

Coming out of college, I knew very little about computers. I had taken a couple of classes on BASIC (Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) programming, one with Bill Orr in a New Prague High school computers class.

There were no computers in our classroom. We had a teletype machine and one telephone modem. You would use the phone to dial the number for the computer, listen for a tone and then put the receiver in a carriage so the teletype machine could communicate with the computer. It was all very clumsy.

The personal computer was introduced in the early 1980s, and it became a hit. Until then, no one fully realized what value a personal computer would have, what it could do in your everyday life.

I 1986, I was teaching at another small school district and one of my students turned in a report for a geography class complete with maps and graphics. Something I could not have done, or even thought of doing when I was in high school 10 years earlier. He did this project on a new kind of computer - an Apple Macintosh.

Two years later I found myself in a new career - as a newspaper editor. This was at a time when the Macintosh was revolutionizing the publishing industry. When I started at Le Sueur, they had just gotten their first Macintosh. It was used to set type for ads and headlines - we still used a time-consuming phototypesetting system for most stories and we still went into a darkroom to develop film and then develop photos to use as we pasted the pages together.

Within a year, the entire system was converted to Macintosh, simplifying and shortening the time needed to put a page together.

In the 23 years since I started in this business, I've come to depend on the Macintosh for many things. It started by scanning photo negatives onto the computer (no more printing photos in the darkroom) and eventually, a transfer to digital photography (no more film). Eventually, we learned how to paginate a page on the computer, rather than pasting things on a large sheet. That allowed us to send the pages to the printing plant electronically, rather than driving them to the printing plant in Northfield.

That, in short, is how Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, changed one industry.

Jobs died earlier this month from cancer at the age of 56. Jobs changed not only the newspaper industry, he changed and created many other industries as well.

Before Apple Computers, few people - even computer experts - could conceive that a personal computer would become as common in a household as a television.

Jobs is credited with revolutionizing the movie industry through with computer animation techniques, the music industry, with the iPod and iTunes, and even the telephone industry, with the release of the iPhone. The iPad, the newest Apple product, in essence created a whole new product category that other companies have been trying hard to duplicate, with mixed results.

In countless articles, Jobs has been compared to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford for his influence on America. Considering the number of products he has developed or inspired, that seems like a fair comparison. Like Edison and Ford, his impact on our society will be felt for generations.

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