Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fish could cut risk of dementia as it boosts blood flow to the brain

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 3:54 AM on 25th October 2011

Eating fish may boost blood flow to the brain which could stave off dementia in later life, researchers have discovered.

The health benefits of a diet rich in omega-3, a fatty acid found in oily fish, have long been suspected, and the findings of two studies into its effects on young people suggest that it can improve reaction times in 18-35 year olds as well as reducing levels of mental fatigue after they perform tough tasks. 

Although the results suggest that, contrary to popular belief, taking omega-3 or fish oil supplements may not have an impact on the mental performance of young adults, the researchers at Northumbria University say the increased blood flow to the brain it caused could be important for older people.

Delicious: Not only is fish tasty it could also help fight dementia because it is rich in Omega-3 
Delicious: Not only is fish tasty it could also help fight dementia because it is rich in Omega-3

Lead researcher Dr Philippa Jackson said: ‘These findings could have implications for mental function later on in life. The evidence suggests that regularly eating oily fish may prevent cognitive decline and dementia, and increased blood flow to the brain may be a mechanism by which this occurs.
'If we can pinpoint both the behavioural and brain blood flow effects of this fatty acid in older healthy people, then the benefits for those with mental degenerative conditions associated with normal ageing could be that much greater.'

Researchers now plan to conduct a study on omega-3 use in people aged 50-70.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cancer-stricken mother dies 23 days after giving birth.....

Cancer-stricken mother dies 23 days after giving birth to daughter she saved by refusing chemotherapy treatment

  • Stacie Crimm gave birth by Caesarian on August 18 as heart rate plummeted
  • Mother met baby girl Dottie Mae just once as she battled in intensive care
  • Three days later, on September 11, Stacie died in Oklahoma hospital
  • Her brother and his wife will now care for the girl, who weighed 2lbs at birth
By Laurie Whitwell

Last updated at 10:30 AM on 19th October 2011
Faced with the knowledge that only chemotherapy would save her from terminal neck cancer, newly-pregnant Stacie Crimm made the ultimate sacrifice.

The 41-year-old, who had been told by doctors she would never be able to conceive a child, decided to refuse the treatment so her unborn daughter could live instead.

Stacie was able to survive for five months before being forced to deliver Dottie Mae, weighing just 2lbs 1oz, by Caesarean section - and even managed to hold her on one occasion before succumbing to the disease three days later.

Dottie Mae
Stacie Renea Crimm
Trade: Stacie Crimm, right, refused chemotherapy for cancer so that her unborn baby Dottie Mae, left, could survive

Sacrifice: Dottie Mae will now be cared for by Stacie's brother Ray Phillips and his wife Jennifer
Sacrifice: Dottie Mae will now be cared for by Stacie's brother Ray Phillips and his wife Jennifer

'This baby was everything she had in this world,' Stacie's brother Ray Phillips told the Oklahoman.

It was he Stacie called in March when she received the unfathomable news that she was pregnant after years of thinking she was infertile.
'You're not going to believe this,' the mother-to-be had told him in a mixture of laughter and tears, according to The Oklahoman.

But over the next days and weeks, as she shopped for all the things her baby would need, a serious worry began to gnaw at Stacie. She was having severe headaches and double vision, while tremors struck every inch of her body.

She began to tell Ray of her growing concerns. 'I'm worried about this baby,' she said in one text, according to the Oklahoman. 'I hope I live long enough to have this baby,' said another message. 'Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child.'

Stacie was no longer with the father of the baby and would have raised her daughter as a single mother if she survived.

At her family's encouragement, Stacie visited a number of doctors and in July, a CT scan revealed that she had head and neck cancer.

Emotional: The moment Stacie was able to meet her baby daughter before she passed away. Also pictured are her siblings Ray and Elizabeth
Emotional: The moment Stacie was able to meet her baby daughter before she passed away. Also pictured are her siblings Ray and Elizabeth

Ill: Dottie Mae was delivered four months early by Caesarian section, weighing just 2lbs 1oz
Tiny: Dottie Mae was delivered four months early by Caesarean section, weighing just 2lbs 1oz

She had to do what no would-be mother should have to - choose between her life and that of her baby's. It was an easy decision.

Ray told the Oklahoman that his sister waived the potentially lifesaving chemotherapy in the hope that she would eventually hold a healthy baby in her arms.

Then on August 16, Stacie collapsed at her home in Ryan, Oklahoma and was rushed to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Doctors said the invasive tumour had begun wrapping around the brain stem, the Oklahoman reported.

Two days later the baby's heart rate plummeted, then Stacie's heart stopped. Code Blue was issued. Doctors and nurses rushed to her aid and decided a C-section was the baby's only chance.

Dottie Mae arrived into the world weighing less than a third of an average newborn. She was swiftly taken to neonatal intensive care, while her mother was placed in intensive care in another building.

'Sister was dying right there. She was gasping,' Ray told the Oklahoman. 'The human body fights death.'

Stacie fought back and managed to wrestle herself off the ventilator and sedation after a few days. 'There was still a lot of hope at that point,' said Ray's wife Jennifer.

Dottie Mae
Stacie Renea Crimm
Loving mother: Dottie Mae was able to meet her mother before Stacie died three days later on September 11

Like uncle, like father: Stacie's brother Ray Phillips has taken Dottie Mae into his home with his four children after the baby's father left his sister
Part of the family: Stacie's brother Ray Phillips has taken Dottie Mae into his home with his four children after the baby's father left his sister

But the cancer had affected one of her eyes and destroyed the muscle behind it,
It had paralysed her throat so that when she did talk, she was hard to understand. She had tumours on her brain. She often became unconscious and had not been able to sign Dottie Mae's birth certificate.

Stacie was too weak to be taken to her baby, and her baby was too weak to be brought to her.

'We'd show her pictures and she would cry and she would want to hold her baby,' Ray told NewsOk. 'It was quite the ordeal. I felt helpless. I wanted to help her, I wanted to do what I could for her - we all did - but they had told us it was impossible for her to see the child.'

On September 8, Stacie stopped breathing and once again was resuscitated. Hospital staff warned the family that she was very close to death.
But she had not yet held, kissed or looked into the blue eyes of the baby whose life she had chosen above her own.

Nurse Agi Beo, herself a mother, could not bear to think of Stacie's emotional pain and decided to do something about it.
She worked with nurse Jetsy Jacob and talked to Neoflight, the medical centre's neonatal transport team, about using a capsule-like ICU to safely move Dottie Mae to her mother.
Special unit: Dottie Mae had to be transferred into an ICU module so she could be taken from intensive care to her mother
Special unit: Dottie Mae had to be transferred into an ICU module so she could be taken from intensive care to her mother

'I knew all of this was going on in the background and I didn't say nothing to her until I knew it was going to happen because I didn't want to get her hopes up,' Ray said.
He asked his sister what she would would think about seeing her daughter that day. 
Stacie's eyes popped open and she began looking around to find her.
Soon the nurses arrived with Dottie Mae and laid her right on her mother's chest. The two stared into each other's eyes for several minutes.
'Nobody said anything, it got real quiet,' Ray told NewsOk. 'I told my sister, "You have done a beautiful thing". It was the perfect moment, that's what I called it.'

Stacie died three days later. Her funeral was on September 14.

Her obituary on the Dudley Funeral Homes website reads: 'Dottie Mae was the light of her life and her greatest accomplishment. She chose to give this baby life instead of taking treatment for herself.'

Dottie Mae now lives with Ray, his wife Jennifer and their four children in their Oklahoma City home

'I think she's a miracle. I just want to do right by her and do what Stacie asked,' Jennifer said.

Read more:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Research on the benefits of supplements......

Research on the benefits of supplements is contradictory, so what vitamin pills do the doctors take?

By Anna Hodgekiss

Last updated at 8:42 PM on 17th October 2011

Nearly a third of us take a vitamin, mineral or dietary supplement. But while there’s no doubt some are vital — such as folic acid in pregnancy to prevent birth defects — many experts believe that, for most of us, supplements are unnecessary.

They put the popularity of these pills (we spend £670 million on them a year) down to successful marketing aimed at the worried well rather than any genuine need. 

And there are safety issues, too. Last week, a study of 39,000 women in the Archives Of Internal Medicine found multivitamins, vitamin B, iron, magnesium and copper increased the statistical risk of premature death. 

Health benefits or con? With so many vitamin pills on the market, which do doctors think are actually worth taking?
Health benefits or a con? With so many vitamin pills on the market, which do doctors think are actually worth taking?

The researchers say the only supplement that might be beneficial is vitamin D3, if you don’t get enough through diet or sun exposure. However, others say the research was flawed.
So what do medics think about supplements — and which do they think are worth taking?


Raj Persad, 52, consultant urological surgeon at Bristol Royal Infirmary, says:
When I remember, I take the supplement LycoRed, which contains lycopene, the substance created when you cook tomatoes. It is thought to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but may have more general anti-cancer benefits, too.

However, when it comes to other supplements designed for men’s health, I’m not so sure. For example, saw palmetto is often mentioned as an alternative treatment for an enlarged prostate as it may improve urination problems and shrink the prostate.
But there are also lots of unidentified compounds in it and it’s expensive. Alpha-blockers are proven to work for an enlarged prostate.


Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says:
I’m a great believer in vitamins and supplements where clinically necessary — such as iron for anaemia.
I take high-dosage vitamin C — 3,000mg, higher than the recommended dose — at the onset of a cold or flu. Research suggests a full-blown attack can be averted by doing this for three days.


Professor Karol Sikora, 63, founder of CancerPartnersUK, says:
I take nothing — giving healthy people supplements is a scam. I see the adverts on the Tube — they just get round the law by not actually making any claims, though the implication is you will look like the models in the touched-up photos!
We have incredibly sensitive systems in our bodies to keep our nutritional needs in balance, so if you’re eating a normal diet then your body will excrete the ingredients in most vitamins.


Helen Bond, 37, registered dietitian, says:
I’m not a huge fan of oily fish and certainly don’t make the recommended one portion a week. Instead I take a fish oil supplement, around 450mg a day, to get my quota of the omega-3 fats. 

There is a high incidence of heart disease in my family and a wealth of research has shown these can help protect against this condition. 

I’m a keen runner and my joints (especially my knees) take a battering. The research on omega-3s on swollen and tender joints is promising. They’re a good investment, perhaps even an insurance policy. 

Diet solution: Many experts agree you are better swapping supplements for fruit and vege
Diet solution: Many experts agree you are better swapping supplements for fruit and vegetables


Aftab Ala, consultant hepatologist from Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says:
The liver is a fantastic organ with a remarkable ability to regenerate naturally. For that reason I feel there is little need for nutrition supplements or vitamins. Having a few consecutive days off alcohol a week will ensure good liver health.


Nick Read, 66, consultant gastroenterologist and medical adviser to the IBS Network, says:
I’m often asked about probiotics, ‘good’ bacteria that are said to be beneficial to gut health, but I don’t take them. I think it’s better to eat foods with prebiotics, which promote the growth of good bacteria.
Every morning I have a big bowl of muesli with dried fruit and a banana. Oats, as well as the sugars in apricots, bananas, dates and prunes, provide prebiotics. 

Recommended: Fish oil is good for the brain and joints
Recommended: Fish oil is good for the brain and joints


William Marshall, 67, consultant clinical biochemist at The London Clinic, says:
I take 25mcg (or 1,000 international units) of vitamin D from January to March when my levels are likely to be at their lowest. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to weak bones and muscles, and a poor immune system.


Paul Thompson, 40, professor of neurology at the University of Los Angeles, says:
My work on brain imaging shows that eating oily fish protects the brain against normal wear and tear, so the people who take fish oil may be on to something!
I don’t take fish oils because my wife and I eat a lot of fish. However, I do take calcium and vitamin D, as I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.


Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic, London, says:
I take 400mg of the antioxidant Co-enzyme Q10 at night to combat any muscle pain I get from taking statins.
I take 1,500mg of fish oils to help boost my levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and 1,000IU of vitamin D3 in summer and 2,000 in winter to protect against bone thinning.
I also take 200mg of selenium, as it’s said to have anti-cancer properties, and a lycopene tablet for sun protection.


Dr Kamlesh Chauhan, 46, vice-president of the College of Optometrists, says:
I don't take any eye care supplements. Research shows that only one is useful and that’s for patients at risk of wet macular degeneration. It contains vitamins C, E, beta carotene and zinc (Ocuvite Preser- Vision AREDS formula).
I think it’s best to eat green, leafy veg, such as spinach, that contain carotenoids, and also oily fish rich in Omega 3, which help to protect eye health.


Dr Matthew Fay, 43, a GP in Shipley, W.Yorks, with a special interest in cardiology, says:
My advice to patients is to spend the money they would use on supplements to increase the quantity and quality of the fruit and vegetables in their diet — coupled with exercise.
I give similar advice about popular cholesterol-lowering products; they do lower the cholesterol, but there is no evidence they reduce heart attacks and stroke.
Oats have cholesterol-lowering properties — it’s much cheaper  to invest in a bowl of porridge  each morning.

Invisible cancer that killed Steve Jobs

Now we can spot invisible cancer that killed Steve Jobs

Pancreatic cancer has no symptoms — but there are new tests to catch it early

By Pat Hagan

Last updated at 8:13 AM on 18th October 2011
When Jolie Dingle went for a routine scan 20 weeks into her pregnancy, she expected nothing more than images of her unborn baby. But the ultrasound also revealed something else — a large swelling on her spleen.

Within days, Jolie, 33, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, had been diagnosed with cancer. Tests showed it had started in her pancreas and spread beyond the spleen to her stomach and kidneys.

Yet despite the shock of a cancer diagnosis, Jolie can count herself lucky. Cancer of the pancreas — a pear-shaped organ about 6 in long that lies deep inside the body between the stomach and the spine — is notoriously difficult to spot.

Medical developments came too late: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died earlier this month aged 56 after a five-year battle with a pancreatic tumour
Medical developments came too late: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died earlier this month aged 56 after a five-year battle with a pancreatic tumour

That’s because, in the majority of cases, it produces no symptoms until the malignant cells have migrated throughout the body and already caused irreversible damage to other organs, such as the liver or kidneys.

Despite being more than halfway through her pregnancy, Jolie had little choice but to undergo emergency surgery to remove a tumour which, it turned out, had grown almost as large as a football.

‘When they told me I had cancer, I thought my baby and I were both going to die,’ says Jolie, who has her own hairdressing business and is married to Jason, 43, who runs a decorating company.

‘I’d not heard of pancreatic cancer and, to be honest, I didn’t even know what the pancreas was or where it was in the body.’

Jolie and her now eight-month old son, Theo, both survived the surgery.
But had she not had a pregnancy scan, doctors said, the cancer would almost certainly have killed her and her baby too.

As a survivor of the disease, Jolie is a member of a very small club. It is widely regarded as one of the most lethal of all tumours, killing around 97 per cent of its victims within five years.

The profile of this deadly disease has been raised with the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died earlier this month aged 56 after a five-year battle with a pancreatic tumour.

Every year, around 8,000 Britons are diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, while rapid progress has been made in boosting survival from cancers affecting the breast, a pancreatic cancer sufferer today is just as likely to die from it as someone 40 or 50 years ago.

Many sufferers discover a problem only when they experience considerable and unexpected weight loss (caused by the cancer eating away at their digestive system), back pain or severe abdominal cramps from the growing tumour.

But studies suggest that, if the disease is caught in the early stages, surgery to remove the tumour can transform survival rates from 3 per cent after five years to as much as 40 per cent.

Now research teams around the world are in a race to discover a simple way of checking otherwise healthy people for hidden signs of a pancreatic tumour.

Currently, most of those that get picked up early are spotted only because the patient happens to be undergoing an abdominal scan for some other, unrelated health matter — such as Jolie’s pregnancy scan. 

Survivors: Jolie Dingle and her baby Theo had a lucky escape when her tumour was spotted and treated when she was pregnant
Survivors: Jolie Dingle and her baby Theo had a lucky escape when her tumour was spotted and treated when she was pregnant

But in the U.S., efforts are under way to spot cancer victims as early as possible by scanning them for signs of pancreatic cysts, tiny growths that can become malignant.
These fluid-filled sacs on the pancreas usually have no known cause and, according to some estimates, affect up to one in eight people. In the vast majority of cases, they are harmless growths that never become malignant.

Those that do turn malignant account for about one in five cases of pancreatic cancer. At the moment, doctors usually only discover cysts by accident when a patient is having an ultrasound or MRI scan for something else.

But at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, about ten patients a week are being screened as part of a trial to see if actively looking for cysts can cut the death toll.

Their efforts are being targeted at ‘high risk’ groups, such as those with a family history of pancreatic cancer, or those who have suffered a bout of pancreatitis — a persistent infection often brought on by gallstones, or frequent binge-drinking.

By targeting potential at-risk groups, it’s hoped doctors may pick up enough problematic cysts to make a significant difference to survival rates.

Another approach is being investigated by British researchers. Here, experts are pinning their hopes on research into the development of urine or blood tests that could detect pancreatic tumours before they get out of hand.

1 in 5
The number of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who are alive one year later
At the Institute of Cancer in London, scientists are hunting for ‘biomarkers’ that are released in high quantities into the urine when a tumour is developing. These biomarkers are proteins that a tumour produces, or chemicals that help with the breakdown of these proteins.

Within the next three to five years, it’s hoped that five to ten different ‘biomarkers’ will have been identified that will not only pinpoint pancreatic cancer but perhaps even identify a person’s risk of the disease, simply from their urine.

Dr Steve Pereira, consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist at University College London, says: ‘Hopefully, in the next few years this will allow us to introduce a screening programme that is cheap and acceptable.

‘But it would have to be extremely accurate for us to test everybody. Instead, we will probably target those most at risk and concentrate on them.’

Jolie Dingle had no history of the disease in her family and had no other obvious risk factors when she complained to her midwife of feeling sick halfway through her pregnancy last year.

‘I felt terrible,’ she says. ‘It was only when I heard the doctor use the word tumour that I realised I had cancer. I had to break the news to Jason and my parents, who were all stunned.’

The surgery took place a few days later and doctors removed most of her pancreas, all of her spleen, a part of her stomach and about 15 per cent of one of her kidneys.

While mother and baby survived the operation, Theo was not out of the woods.
‘Doctors warned that in the first few days after surgery there was a high risk that I could go into premature labour or miscarry. At 22 weeks, Theo’s chances of survival would have been tiny. Every time the nurse put the monitor on me to try to pick up the baby’s heartbeat I was a bag of nerves.’

Now Jolie has regular three-monthly checks and so far the cancer has shown no sign of returning.

‘I can’t believe how lucky I am. When he was born, it was one of the best moments in my life. That’s why we called him Theo, which in Greek means God’s gift.’

Read more:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eating chocolate may reduce risk of strokes in women

Good news! Eating chocolate may reduce risk of strokes in women

By Claire Bloomfield

Last updated at 3:35 PM on 11th October 2011
Observational study: Chocolate consumption was linked with improved heart health and fewer strokes

A sweet tooth isn't necessarily bad for your health - at least not when it comes to chocolate, researchers say.

A study of more than 33,000 Swedish women found that the more chocolate women said they ate, the lower their later risk of stroke.

The results add to a growing body of evidence linking cocoa consumption to heart health.

Research leader Susanna Larsson from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said previous studies had linked flavonoids in chocolate with a drop in high blood pressure - a risk factor for strokes.

However, she said the latest study did not give people a free pass to gorge on chocolate as it had not yet been proven whether this theoretical benefit translates into real-life benefits. 

'Given the observational design of the study, findings from this study cannot prove that it's chocolate that lowers the risk of stroke,' Dr Larsson said.

While she believes chocolate may boost health, she also warned that eating too much of it could be counterproductive.

'Chocolate should be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories, fat, and sugar,' she said. 

'As dark chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate, consumption of dark chocolate would be more beneficial.'

Dr Larsson and her colleagues, whose findings appear in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, tapped into data from a mammography study that included self-reports of how much chocolate women ate in 1997. The women ranged in age from 49 to 83 years.
Over the next decade, there were 1,549 strokes, and the more chocolate women ate, the lower their risk.

Among those with the highest weekly chocolate intake - more than 45 grams - there were 2.5 strokes per 1,000 women per year. 

That figure was 7.8 per 1,000 among women who ate the least (less than 8.9 grams per week).

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. People aged over 65 are most at risk.

Nearly 800,000 Americans and 150,000 English suffer a stroke every year, with about a sixth of them dying of it and many more left disabled. 

For those at high risk, doctors recommend medication to lower blood pressure, quitting smoking, exercising more and eating a healthier diet - but so far chocolate isn't on the list.

Read more:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vitamin pills and supplements taken by millions of women 'do more harm than good'

By Sophie Borland

Last updated at 10:39 PM on 10th October 2011

More harm than good? Scientists say that taking vitamin pills can cause premature death
More harm than good? Scientists say that taking vitamin pills can cause premature death

Vitamins and other food supplements taken by millions of women may actually put them at more risk, according to a major study.

Scientists say there is little evidence the pills do any good – and in fact some could be causing serious harm.

A study involving nearly 39,000 women has found multivitamins, vitamin B, folic acid, iron, magnesium and copper all increased the statistical risk of premature death.
Nearly a third of adults in Britain take some form of dietary supplement most days and the industry is worth £675million a year.

Some of the most popular pills include multivitamins, vitamin A, C and E, iron, folic acid and calcium – which are all thought to improve long-term health and ward off illnesses.

Scientists from Finland, Norway, the U.S. and South Korea looked at the long-term health effects of common vitamin pills and minerals on 38,772 women aged 55 to 69.
Over an 18-year period the women recorded any supplements they regularly took.

The results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found copper increased the risk of dying prematurely by 18 per cent. Folic acid – which pregnant women are told to take to protect their child against spina bifida – increased risk of death by almost 6 per cent, while iron raised the risk by nearly 4 per cent.
Multivitamins raised the risk by 2.4 per cent, vitamin B6 by 4 per cent, magnesium by 3.6 per cent and zinc by 3 per cent.

The scientists do not fully understand how supplements may trigger early death, but they may interfere with the body’s natural defences. They say the supplements should only be taken by patients who are malnourished and only under the supervision of a doctor. 

Everyone else should ensure they eat a balanced diet to get adequate vitamins and minerals.

Concern: Doctors are worried that the tablets can interfere with the body's natural defence system

Concern: Doctors are worried that the tablets can interfere with the body's natural defence system
Jaakko Mursu, from the University of Eastern Finland, said: ‘Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements.

‘We recommend that they be used with strong medically-based cause, such as symptomatic nutrient deficiency disease.’

The results back up a major Danish study carried out at the University of Copenhagen in 2008 which found some vitamin supplements increase the risk of dying early by 16 per cent.

Last night experts dismissed the latest findings. They claimed many patients took supplements to treat underlying health problems – for example iron for anaemia – so were more likely to die early anyway.


Dr Glenys Jones, from the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge, said: ‘This observational study is interesting, but it does not show supplement use causes women to die earlier.’

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Health Supplements Information Service, which provides the public with information on vitamins and minerals, said: ‘Multivitamin supplements contain a variety of essential vitamins and minerals which help those with less healthy, or irregular diets, to meet recommended intakes of nutrients, thus ensuring the maintenance of normal health and well-being.

‘The findings should be treated with extreme caution given the poor methodology and lack of reliable information about the health of participants, or the type of diets consumed.

‘As there is no credible biological reason why normal supplement use should impact on mortality, it is likely these findings represent an effect of age and ill-health rather than supplement use.’

Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: A genius who made computers desirable for people who hated computers

I never really ‘got’ Apple. Like many I always found the almost religious devotion to Apple’s stylish but often infuriating machines off-putting and slightly creepy. I was forced to work on an Apple Mac for a while in the late 1990s and when we switched to PCs it felt like a liberation.

But I am in a small minority and I fully admit that with the death of Steve Jobs we have lost a talented genius whose trick was to make computers desirable for people who hated computers.

To me the computer has always been just a tool. But for millions the Apple Macintosh and its dozens of spin-offs and descendants are far more than that. They are part of their lives, they are part of who they think they are. Hardly anyone else has pulled off this trick with technology and for this Jobs deserves the tributes streaming in today.

Steve Jobs did not invent the personal computer nor did he invent clever user-friendly software. He did not invent the mouse, Windows-type interfaces nor all the paraphernalia of the modern IT world.

What he did instead was bring together the best of cutting-edge technology and packaged them brilliantly in ready-to-go boxes that any idiot could turn on and start working.

We forget now just how desperately awful computers were in the late 1970s. A popular model at the time, made by Tandy, had to be soldered together, had no casing, no monitor, no mouse and a keyboard with about six buttons. To make the thing do anything useful you had to have a degree in high-level geekery and be willing to spend hours programming the thing in machine code often as not to be rewarded with just a flashing green cursor.

Then in 1976 Steve Jobs founded a new company called Apple. The young company struggled in the early years coming up with computers like the Lisa and the first Macintoshes. The Apple and Apple II were self-contained stand-alone machines with a keyboard, a nice box and a monitor screen on top. Against today’s machines they were basic beyond belief but compared to the opposition at the time it was like the 21st century had arrived early.

Throughout the Eighties and Nineties Apple’s computers became more and more sophisticated and were machines of choice for creative types such as artists, writers and designers.

Steve Jobs was actually fired from Apple for a period in the late 1980s and during this time he bought another company which became Pixar, now the maker of hugely successful computer-generated movies such as Toy Story. Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 and rapidly brought it back to profitability.

For the last 20 years the 'narrative' has been that Apple is a cuddly, friendly company that sells nice computers to nice people and is run by a hippy-dippy guy who really isn’t that interested in money.

Microsoft, on the other hand headed by the arch geek Bill Gates is seen as a cut-throat, rapacious firm which makes cheap but unreliable machines for unimaginative business people and programmers.

There are grains of truth in these cliches but only grains. Jobs, like Gates was first and foremost a fantastically successful businessman. There is no reason to doubt Gates’s heartfelt tributes to his old rival today are anything but genuine. Far more united these men, and their companies than divided them.

What turned Apple from being a middling also-ran competitor to the biggest software company in the world was the undeniably brilliant 'i' range of products, starting with the iMac back in 1998.

Suddenly a new world of computing and entertainment was opened up to a whole new customer base. Younger, savvier more sociable and above all more female than the computer’s traditional market.

The iPod begat the iPhone. Again, it was neither the only nor necessarily the best of its type on sale but, certainly somehow the most desirable.

Finally we have the iPad, a machine, which in my view had no right to succeed, yet which has probably surpassed its makers' wildest dreams.

Like all the greatest innovators Jobs did not respond to what people wanted; he made things that they didn’t even know they wanted and then made them want them.

He took computing and the whole business of the electronic transfer and storage of information out of the world of the geek and the adolescent’s bedroom and brought it into the mainstream.

For this he will be remembered as one of the key architects of the 21st century, as people like me who never quite 'bought' the Apple brand have to accept that we simply never caught the right wave. We shall not see his like again.






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