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the Enigma of the Apple Computer Logo
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While I was attending the 2002 Edinburgh International Festivals in Scotland, a lecturer made the statement that the famous Apple Computer logo (a profile of a rainbow colored apple with a bite out of it) was in homage to Alan Turing, the generally acknowledged father of the computer and the developer of the “Turing Test,” which pioneered the field of artificial intelligence. The lecturer went on to explain that Turing had committed suicide at the age of 42 by taking a bite from an apple laced with cyanide.
She said she had gotten this information from the production notes to the film, “Enigma.” I had never heard this fascinating story and thought it deserved some investigation.
“Enigma” is a 2001 British film available on
video and DVD. Starring Kate Winslet and Dougray
Scott, “Enigma” is based on the best-selling mass-market
paperback of the same title by Robert Harris (Ivy Books, 1996). It is a
fictionalized account of the successful British Government
Code and Cypher School’s effort to break the Nazi’s enigma
code during World War II.
In the film, Dougray Scott portrays Tom Jericho, a mathematician and code-breaking whiz loosely based on Turing.
real life, it was Alan Turing’s genius that was central to breaking
the code of the German Enigma machines, by which the German high command
communicated with U-boats, ships, and air and troop bases. The British
were particularly desperate to stop the German U-boats because they were
wreaking havoc on the Allied ships that supplied Britain with necessary
goods and materials.
an eccentric genius born in London in 1912, was educated at King’s
College, Cambridge and received a PhD from Princeton University. During
his childhood, he excelled at mathematics and had a keen interest in
organic chemistry and poisons. As a young teenager at the Sherbourne
School, a boarding school in Dorset, he became aware of his
homosexuality. While at
Sherbourne, he had a tragic homosexual love affair with a fellow student
who died of tuberculosis. The death of this young lover led to Turing’s
obsession with consciousness and with the idea of whether or not a
machine can have a soul.
the war, Turing continued his research on computer development at
Manchester University until 1952 when he was arrested for his
homosexuality on the grounds of “gross indecency” with a 19-year old
boy. This was a felony offense under British law, and to stay out of
prison Turing agreed to be, in effect, castrated by injection with
female hormones. His reputation was ruined and the British Government
removed his security clearance. On June 7, 1954, his housekeeper found
his body. Next to his body was a cyanide-filled apple from which one
bite had been taken.
linking the origin of the Apple Computer logo to Alan Turing’s suicide
can be found in Emily Blunt’s film review of “Enigma” at http://www.bluntreview.com/reviews/enigma.htm
Another reference linking Turing’s suicide to the Apple Computer logo
can be found at www.fusionanomaly.net/alanturing.html.
research makes me skeptical about the link between Turing and the Apple
logo. According to an account given in the “History” link at www.kelleyad.com,
the famous apple logo was developed for Apple Computer’s introduction
of the Apple II computer in 1977. Rob
Janoff of Regis McKenna Advertising designed the logo with the apple
representing “the acquisition of knowledge.” This account goes on to
describe how Steve Jobs added the rainbow colors to the logo Janoff
designed to emphasize the Apple II’s superior color output.
earlier Apple Computer logo featured Sir Isaac Newton under an apple
tree. Photos of this early logo along with other photos of the evolution
of Apple logos can be seen at www.thaimacclub.com.
the Turing link to the Apple logo makes for interesting conversation, it
doesn’t appear to stand up under close examination.
The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)
column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on
12, 2003. Greg Gore can
be reached at gg@GregGore.com.
2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.