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The many stories behind Apple's bite on its logo

(Shanghai Daily)

10:49, April 03, 2013

For many fans of Apple Inc, the US-based company's logo - a bite off the fruit - still remains a mystery.

But for a university professor in Beijing the bite in its logo implies "Apple's lack of gratitude toward its Chinese consumers."

Liu Junhai, a professor at Renmin University of China, made the remarks during CCTV's investigative reports last week on Apple's unfair after-sales policy in China.

Apple has been criticized for treating its Chinese customers differently than elsewhere in the world. CCTV has been exploring the issue since March 15 - Consumer Rights Day.

Other media have also jumped into the fray, including the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

Critics have accused Apple of being "arrogant."

The barrage of negative sentiment prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology to Chinese customers in a statement published on its Chinese website on April 1.

In it, Cook promised to improve the company's after-sales policy by expanding the warranty period for the iPad and replacing new iPhones with quality problems.

While Liu's broadside was an expression of disappointment with Apple's policies, it didn't really explain the meaning of the bite on Apple's logo.

The mystery, if that's what it is, has stirred up a lot of imagination.

One of the most widely held interpretations says that the logo memorializes Alan Turing, the mathematician and scientist who laid the foundations for computer science with his pioneering research into artificial intelligence and unlocking German codes during the World War II.

Turing committed suicide in 1954 by biting an apple laced with cyanide, an act many people attributed to shame over his homosexuality.

Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were fans of Turing, and their Apple logo is seen as their tribute to the man known the "father of computer science."

Jobs, however, denied that version of events in an interview with the BBC.

"It isn't true," he said, "but God, we wish it were!"

Well, there's always a biblical reference to consider. In the story of Adam and Eve, the bite of an apple becomes a symbol for temptation, sin and the fall of man. Not sure that has much to do with the digital age.

One popular theory links the Apple logo with Sir Isaac Newton, who according to popular lore stumbled upon the concept of gravity thanks to the falling apple. It doesn't explain the bite, however.

This version gained currency because of two supporting facts.

In the first place, Apple's original logo was just a picture depicting Newton's discovery of gravity.

At that time, the company was called Apple Computer.

Second, Apple developed a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) called Newton in 1993.

It was the forerunner of the world's first tablet computer. However, it failed to find a market and production was halted in 1997.

Another story surrounding the logo story is my personal favorite, even though it's been pretty well debunked. It's a simple explanation: bite sounds like a "byte," a basic measure unit in computer science.

Actually, the real reason behind the logo is not very fanciful. Rob Janoff, the man credited with drawing the first bite into the apple, disclosed in a 2009 interview that the bite was used to distinguish an apple from a cherry.

Apple has changed the logo in color, theme and texture over the years. It has used the logo with a rainbow theme, an aqua theme and, since 2003, with a glass theme.

As the company matured, Apple changed the name from Apple Computer Inc to Apple Inc, signifying its expansion into digital music with the iPod and iTunes store, and into the mobile device industry with the iPhone and iPad.

"I like Apple's culture and image," Wozniak said during a speech in Shanghai last year.

"It has changed the way we live."

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