Redmond. Cupertino. Mountain View. In the tech world, these cities are indelibly stamped with their respective company names: Microsoft, Apple, Google. The places have become synonymous with their firms: we await the “news from Redmond” when Microsoft debuts a new operating system, or whisper about Cupertino’s penchant for secrecy.

Though less well-known, Waterloo, Ontario, is another city stamped by the accomplishments of a tech giant. Research in Motion began there in 1984, and with its era-defining success came an influx of talent and a growing community. But RIM has stumbled, and lately the signs have been especially grim: the all-or-nothing BB10 has been delayed until early 2013, and the company lost a half-billion dollars last quarter. It can be easy to treat the news from Waterloo abstractly, as just another unfolding corporate drama. But RIM’s fate affects real, actual people — and not just those buying (or not) its phones. It remains one of the area’s largest employers, a source not just of local pride, but Canadian pride as well. As Google is to Mountain View or Apple is to Cupertino, Research in Motion is more than just a company. It’s a symbol of accomplishment, a defining feature of the community’s self-image. Hoping to better understand what it’s like to live in the shadow of a humbled giant, I visited Waterloo one weekend and talked to the people there.