credits a big part of who he is and the direction his life has taken for the past two decades to Steve Jobs.
It was Apple that moved him in 1992 to Northern California.
Reached at his home Wednesday, more than two hours after Jobs' death was announced on the Apple homepage, Knowles could barely speak when asked how he was doing in light of the announcement.
"I admire him greatly and I learned a lot from him. Many of the things I do today I learned from Steve," Knowles said, his voice breaking. "The effect that Apple and Steve have had on my life is huge."
Apple recruited him 20 years ago while he was on the faculty at Harvey Mudd College at the Claremont Colleges directing research and academic computer. The Cupertino company relocated him to the Bay Area, but, at the time, Jobs was no longer working there.
Knowles, an avid fan of the Macintosh computer and founder of one of the most successful Macintosh users groups of the day, met Jobs, his personal hero, in 1985 at a technology conference in San Francisco. He then met him again in 1997 when Jobs returned to Apple. Knowles worked closely with Jobs at Apple during this time.
The introduction of the Macintosh also caused a career path change for Knowles leading him to a technology career. Before the Macintosh, the original Apple computer was a major influence, he said.
"Ever since they founded the company, it's had a significant role in my life."
Knowles is also friends with Steve Wozniak, co founder of Apple, who also lives in Los Gatos.
Knowles said when Jobs announced his retirement in late August he knew that he wasn't leaving the company to do the typical mundane things most do upon leaving their professions "because running Apple was what Steve always wanted to do. Apple was like a child to Steve. That was his passion. It was his way to change the world, to focus on the important. He would not have passed the reigns to someone unless he was incredibly confident of his ability to continue his vision for Apple.
"Changing the world is what Steve Jobs always wanted to do and he did through Apple. This [his death] doesn't come as a surprise. It's not something we wanted to hear, but we knew it was soon to be heard.
His 2005 Stanford University commencement speech is poignant because Jobs talked about death and in typical Jobs' fashion encouraged the graduates to follow their passion, Knowles said. "Thank goodness he followed his passion. The world is a better place because of it."
Los Gatos resident Rich Binell, who worked at Apple for eight years, described the late tech guru as an "American legend."
"He revolutionized computers by putting them into places no one had ever thought to put them before—classrooms, workrooms, and shirt pockets.
"He never wavered in his belief that computers would revolutionize in what computers could do. Others made fortunes copying his work. By the time they had copied him, he was off to revolutionize something else. Computers, printers, interfaces, operating systems, telephones, typefaces, music, movies, cartoons, notebooks, notepads, and retail stores," Binell said
Think about it this way, Binell explained: "Every person who has ever used a computer with a mouse, and noticed how easy it is to move things on the screen, has done so because of the work of Steve Jobs. That is only one of the thousands of the thousands of long shadows of a very determined man.
"His influence is massive, important, and enduring in an industry where very little is of importance, and even less endures. He is easily among the most influential people of our lifetimes. We will not see his kind again for a long, long time," Binell noted.
Los Gatos Vice Mayor Steve Rice said Jobs' death is a tremendous loss to the valley and the local community. "He was an incredible visionary and was one of the people at the forefront of the transition of the Santa Clara Valley to the Silicon Valley."
Rice said his son, who's a computer science major at the University of Denver, texted him the sad news.
With his health problems increasingly getting worse, Rice said it was clear that Jobs had an epic struggle ahead. "It's not surprising because of what he's been up to."
Jobs resigned as Apple CEO on Aug. 24 and Tim Cook was named the company's new leader. Jobs had taken three medical leave periods, his latest one in January. It was widely known he had endured many health problems due to being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004.
"He was a huge presence and was inspiring to a lot of upcoming people in the tech industry," Rice said, who described himself as an Apple product man.
Los Gatos Mayor Joe Pirzynski said he knew Jobs' passing was coming and his illness had prepared the world for his death, but when he heard the announcement, "it was still a shock."
"He was truly a unique individual. A real contributor to our social environment. From the way we communicate to how we process information. He was special and one of a kind."
Pirzynski said he appreciated the way Jobs lived his life. "He will be sorely missed by Apple and by the world."