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Apple rainbow logo

What is the source of the Apple logo? I heard that it was a reference to Alan Turing, who died of cyanide poisoning after eating an apple.

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  • 5
    I think that Alan Turing was much less well known at the time of Apple's founding than he is now.
    – mikado
    Sep 11 at 7:21
  • 6
    It would have been a pretty morbid source of inspiration in any case. You really think Steve Jobs would like his company indirectly associated with suicide? Sep 11 at 8:31
  • 12
    Googling for a minute reveals that most sources refer to the logo was initially referring to the apple that fell on Isaac Newton, and that event was pictured in the original logo before it was simply changed to the apple, with the bite taken out having either biblical references about curiosity or acquiring knowledge or just a pun for the word "byte". But, can we ever find out what the people were actually thinking when designing these logos, this is just the story that is published, so I will leave this as a comment.
    – Justme
    Sep 11 at 9:00
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    @NeilMeyer You may be wildly misoverestimating how much typical USA college graduates even knew about the UK (except for what they had learned from Disney movies). I remember meeting one of them (who was working as a tech writer for an international computer company) on her first trip overseas in the 1980s, and she was astounded by the fact that the UK had brands like McDonalds, KFC, Coca-Cola, Nike, etc on every high street. I guess she thought we all wore black bowler hats and traveled in horse-drawn cabs, or something.
    – alephzero
    Sep 11 at 15:20
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    @LamarLatrell: The rainbow Apple logo (1977) predates the introduction of the rainbow LGBT flag (1978). Sep 12 at 22:52
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This seemingly well-researched article from a design magazine says

According to Janoff [designer of the logo], the reason for choosing this bitten apple logo is to prevent people from confusing the shape of the apple with some other fruit like cherry or tomato, having a similar form.

It also mentions the byte/bite pun, but says that was just a coincidence.

I've never heard the idea that the logo might be related to the apple found by Turing's bed. It seems extremely unlikely, both because it would be in incredibly poor taste and because (as mentioned in comments) Turing wasn't nearly the celebrity in the 1970s that he is now. The wartime codebreaking at Bletchley Park was only declassified in the mid 70s, and the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma wasn't published until 1983, years after the Apple logo was designed.

Incidentally, there's little evidence that he died from eating a poisoned apple. He died of cyanide poisoning, and a partially eaten apple was found by his bed. The apple was never tested for poison, and he could easily have been exposed in some other way (ref). I'm not sure anyone would even have known about the poisoned apple story before 1983, regardless.

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    @NeilMeyer Mothers aren't always the most reliable sources on these matters, but when you add the fact that he was in good spirits by all accounts, didn't leave a suicide note, and did leave a note listing chores he was planning for a date after his death, it really doesn't look like suicide. The BBC article that I linked suggests that the coroner concluded suicide on the grounds that someone deranged enough to be homosexual would also be deranged enough to snap and kill themself without warning. The whole article is worth reading.
    – benrg
    Sep 11 at 22:08
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    @benrg: About 90% of suicides leave no note.
    – Vikki
    Sep 11 at 22:43
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    We certainly did know about Alan Turing. "Turing machine" was part of the lexicon then. Sep 12 at 2:22
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    How did the Turing award factor into this? He must have been somewhat well known in the mid 70s if they were giving out computer science awards bearing his name.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 12 at 2:53
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    Turing was recognised as a distinguished computer science pioneer in the 1970s. But his work at Bletchley wasn't public knowledge, nor was his personal life. It's unlikely that Apple were particularly interested in him. Sep 12 at 14:30
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According to official sources, the name Apple came first. In an interview with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, recorded to an internal Apple video, it is explained that the name just… appeared. The recording is kept in an archive at Stanford; while the video itself is not available publicly, Terence Chea of the Associated Press transcribes it as follows:

WOZNIAK: I remember driving down Highway 85. We’re on the freeway, and Steve mentions, ‘I've got a name: Apple Computer.’ We kept thinking of other alternatives to that name, and we couldn't think of anything better.

JOBS: And also remember that I worked at Atari, and it got us ahead of Atari in the phonebook.

Many sources take this as indication that appearing before Atari was the primary motivation for the name, but this is only weakly implied above.

So the initial impulse to associate apples with computing wasn’t through Turing. And while this connection may have appeared later, this is also pretty doubtful, as @benrg’s answer explains.

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  • I don't think anybody sane would keep a written reference of where logo came from because it can later be used to due the company for using somebody else's IP. Especially when logos are designed the competition is being investigated. So designers will be careful not to keep record of where ideas came from. Sep 13 at 14:03
  • @akostadinov "fear of being sued" sounds like more of a reason to keep very good records of where the idea came from, so that you can prove that you own the rights to it. Sep 13 at 23:50
  • @akostadinov You think someone could have copyrighted the apple that was found next to Turing? Sep 14 at 8:03
  • @user3840170, I don't know anything. If it is known that idea came from something, I guess it is a potential lawsuit danger. Logos and other official names are cleared by lawyers but no record is kept as to how was that done and in case of rejection, no explanation is given. This is what I have observed. Sep 14 at 19:38
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That apple by his deathbed has become the most famous in science since Isaac Newton’s windfall, with claims that Turing poisoned it so he could mimic the one in his favourite fairy-tale, Disney’s Snow White, and – repeatedly – that it inspired Apple’s famous once-bitten logo.

Although writer/actor/presenter/technophile Stephen Fry says that when he asked Apple founder Steve Jobs if the story is true, Jobs replied: "God we wish it were. It's just a coincidence."

Source: bbc.com

Here you can see the clip in its context:

https://youtu.be/A1Ds2eq1E5o?t=560

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  • Yes, I should have watched the video in it's entirety. I only realised that after asking this question.
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 12 at 2:51
  • Stephen Fry mentions this on an episode of BBC's QI. I have seen this somewhere on their YouTube channel, I haven't got a link to the particular episode handy but here is the channel youtube.com/c/QIQuiteInteresting
    – Rodney
    Sep 12 at 8:02
  • @Rodney I have added a timestamped link to the episode above.
    – Gantendo
    Sep 12 at 22:10
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It probably has something to do with the fact that Jobs was at one point on a diet of almost nothing but apples. He was spending his college time looking in on all sorts of courses from philosophy to calligraphy. It was also the time of "dropping out" of mainstream society and questioning everything about diet, drugs, people living in groups, relationships, etc. The health food shops we take for granted today, many of these started as commune co-ops back then.

Jobs eventually had to give up on the apples diet as he was showing signs of ill-health from it. But I guess he retained a fondness for the apple and its form may have occupied a prominent place in his mind.

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