Uncover the story behind the Apple logo

The main points of the story

Holden Frith says one story tells of how the Apple logo was a tribute to Alan Turing

He writes: “Unfortunately, truth is seldom so simple or so beautiful, as we wish”

Apple logo artist, Rob Janoff, was intrigued by the story but unaware of the associations

Frith: More than anyone else, Steve Jobs valued a beautiful story

Editor’s note: Holden Frith is deputy editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times Online.


If beauty really is the truth, as John Keats claims, then this story must be true: The logo on the back of your iPhone or Mac is a homage to Alan Turing, the man who laid the foundations of the modern computer, pioneered research into artificial intelligence and unlocked wartime codes. German.

His death, a decade after the end of the war, provides the link with Apple. Unrecognized for his work, and facing jail for gross indecency and humiliation with estrogen injections intended to ‘cure’ his homosexuality, he bit off an apple he had greased with cyanide. He died in secret on June 7, 1954, 10 years and a day after the landings in Normandy, which made much use of the intelligence he drew from his methods.

Thus, the story goes, when two Stanford entrepreneurs were searching for a logo for their new computer company, they remembered Turing and his contribution to their field. They choose an apple – not a whole apple, but an apple taken from it.

Unfortunately, the truth is seldom as simple or as beautiful as we would like. I researched this story for the first time in 2005 and someone at Apple confirmed that it was indeed true. The article struck a chord and many people reached out to say how happy or touched they were to hear the story.

A few years later, I mentioned it to another Apple employee, who immediately said he thought it was a myth. It may have started around the time of the 2001 movie about Bletchley Park code-breakers, Enigma, or it may have re-emerged around that time. He checked with Apple headquarters, and while they weren’t obligated, it was clear that Turing’s story wasn’t an official Apple history.

Other theories have been advanced. The apple represented knowledge, as in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, or referred to the falling fruit that led Sir Isaac Newton to the concept of gravity. Supporters of the latter theory note the name of Apple’s portable PDA, Newton, but that was more than a decade after the logo was created.

Unfortunately, the evidence now points in a more realistic direction. In a 2009 interview with CreativeBits, Rob Janoff, the man who drew the logo, reflected on his work theories. He has rejected Sir Isaac or the Bible as the source material, and while he says he was intrigued by the connections with Turing’s story, he says he was unaware of it at the time.

“I’m afraid it had nothing to do with him,” he said. “It’s a wonderful urban legend.”

Janoff says he didn’t receive any specific brief from Steve Jobs, and while he’s unclear about how he settled on the simple outline of the apple, the reason for the bite is crystal clear: It’s there for the sake of size, he says, so a small Apple can not The logo still looks like an apple, not a cherry.

It wasn’t long before Janov discovered the first happy coincidence of his design, when a colleague told him that “bytes” were the bedrock of computing. More romantic fables will follow soon after.

I was disappointed when Turing’s story came into question, but I grew to enjoy the uncertainty. Limbaugh seemed an appropriate, even poetic, case for the story of a man living in the shadows. Even his honor was now floating between life and death, like Snow White after she had swallowed her legendary apple.

I hope there’s more respect for beauty than the cold, harsh truth behind Steve Jobs’ silence on this matter. He could have rejected the creation myths inspired by his company, but he chose not to. Most of all, he valued the beautiful story.

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