Thought Train: “Apple” Evolved Pt2
The depth of an apple’s existence is an inspiring thought. It is a symbolic fruit, spread throughout humanity’s history in religion, the arts, and business. Why do we feel good when we see an apple? If you feel bad, this article may not be for you. The answer may seem obvious in describing its sweet flavour and association with good health. One may also note the aesthetically pleasing biological design. But there is something unusually deeper to an apple than what we see on the surface. For example, why did Steve Jobs choose “Apple” instead of “Pear” or “Grape” to name his computer company? And, why is New York City often referred to as “The Big Apple” and not “The Big Orange”? These alternative fruit have similar qualities to an apple, so there must be some deeper notions below the surface that we are not consciously aware of. Could it be the way an apple looks when we see one, or the emotions we feel when we think of the apple’s true identity at its core? What is its true identity?
It is intriguing to ponder whether Steve Jobs actually thought about the apple’s philosophical identity prior to naming his company. The identity of an apple is very complex with many different stories to consider; but did Jobs actually know these stories? The average soul sees an apple for what it is; a delicious healthy fruit that grows on trees and has been featured in a few Hollywood movies – and if you’re lucky, one may bring up the forbidden fruit… Jobs was not akin to the average soul however. It is near common knowledge that the late founder of the world’s most valuable technology company, Apple, accredited the use of LSD and other recreational drugs as “one of the most important things” he ever did in his life. (Baer) He claimed recreational drug use opened his mind and fuelled his creative energy in the 1960s. So, would he simply name his company Apple off the cuff? I think not. To Jobs, the word apple spoke to him on a deeper level. What that level was, we will inevitably never know – but we can speculate what he was thinking.
We do know, however, what he was thinking on the surface from an old interview in Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography;
“I was on one of my fruitarian diets,” he explained. “I had just come back from the apple farm. It sounded fun, spirited, and not intimidating. Apple took the edge off the word ‘computer.’” (Isaacson 63)
Unfortunately, this is the most in-depth explanation ever quoted from Jobs. To think he simply selected the word because it sounded “fun” and “spirited” is an understatement. Why did the word apple seem that way to Jobs? Personally, before the marketing influence of Apple Computers struck me, I never considered the fruit “fun” or “spirited”. It was an item in my lunch box that I usually attempted to trade away for a package of Dunkaroos. Furthermore, if Steve had the chance to read “Apple Evolved Part 1”, he would have understood that Christian culture believes the apple to be the “forbidden fruit” and the bearer of all evil. Not so fun after all, eh? But Steve was an enlightenment seeking Buddhist, not a Christian!
In Buddhist terms, “enlightenment” is defined as the full awakening of a human mind. It is attained when all mental limitations have been removed and one’s positive potential is completely and perfectly realized. Legend says that only a handful of humans have truly attained enlightenment throughout Buddhism’s 2,500 year history. Steve, nonetheless, was not intimidated by this and it became his main goal before Apple Computers. These were the years when he made use of psychedelics to help dive deeper into his soul and mind… Apparently it helps! Anyway, in an earlier section of Isaacson’s biography, it mentions that after Jobs dropped out of Reed College, he spent his weekends working at an apple orchard in northern California with a few of his “enlightenment seeking” friends. According to Jobs’ friend Robert Friedland, “Steve ran the apple orchard!” (Isaacson 117) But what happens when you combine pruning apple trees with seeking enlightenment? You get very, very, deep thoughts about the apple – at least I’d hope! We can only imagine what their revelations surrounded but I speculate it was majorly based on the simplicity and pureness of an apple. We can see this in a statement from one of Jobs’ friends in Isaacson’s biography;
“[Apple] instantly signalled friendliness and simplicity. It managed to be both slightly off-beat and as normal as a slice of pie. There was a whiff of counterculture, back-to-nature earthiness to it, yet nothing could be more American. And the two words together—Apple Computer—provided an amusing disjuncture.” (Isaacson 63)
To expand on this, it seems like the apple has an innate level of neutrality. Neutrality is defined as; the absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling. So, how is an apple like this? Well, each variety has a certain type of texture, colour, size, and flavour. One variety may be crispy, red/green, large, and sweet, and the next one; soft, green, small, and tart. The contrast between the two varieties causes an unconscious feeling of neutrality. Furthermore, the shape and size of an apple is also something worth noting. Relative to all other fruits, the apple’s size is nor large or small, and its spherical shape provides an instant feeling of neutrality. In comparison to pears, they are naturally triangular making them less neutral and a little edgy – triangles are pointy! Grapes are relatively small and only two solid colours – not enough complexity here; and the orange is overly vibrant and typically very sweet with some tanginess – too exciteful! Jobs wanted the computer to be personal, and in order to achieve this, the name had to create a feeling of friendliness and familiarity. He referred to apples as “not intimidating” in his interview and I believe this statement was built around the neutrality of an apple. If something is neutral, by default it becomes friendly because we have nothing to be afraid of, right? In Jobs’ mind, getting a consumer to feel friendliness towards a machine started with the name. “Apple” was perfect. Think about it!
Before Apple Computers, the average consumer perceived computers as complicated and intimidating machines. Jobs desperately wanted to change this view which lead him and his friend/business partner, Steve Wozniak, to invent the personal computer in 1977. They called their revolutionary machine the Apple II and centred it around user-friendliness and sleek design. This ultimately challenged the market’s perspective towards computers and it quickly gained momentum in the late 1970s. Eventually, other companies such as IBM and Microsoft followed suit. Steve Jobs is known today as one of the greatest visionaries who ever lived for his extraordinary contributions to the technology industry.
It is enlightening to think that Jobs’ inspiration for his company name was seeded in an apple orchard. I feel slightly connected to his past in a way, because I’ve spent a lot of time in the same environment at Campbell’s Orchards – sober nonetheless. But maybe he was onto something. I wonder, if apples did not exist, would Jobs still have invented the personal computer? We will leave that question up for debate!
To be continued…
Baer, Drake. “How Steve Jobs’ Acid-Fueled Quest For Enlightenment Made Him The Greatest Product Visionary In History.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Isaacson, Walter. “Steve Jobs.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
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