Myths of Manchester: The Apple Logo & Alan Turing

We probably see the Apple logo around 30 times a day - especially if you walk past a coffee shop on your way to work.

By Ben Brown | 25 July 2022

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But what’s the story behind this globally recognised image and what the hell does it have to do with Manchester? It turns out – quite a lot. And nothing. Let me explain…

It’s probably a good idea to start with the evolution of the Apple logo and then try to explain just where this particular myth comes from.

Basically, the idea is that the logo is a direct reference to Manchester’s very own Alan Turing and thus to this day his legacy carries on all over the world on millions of iPhones, iPads and other devices beginning with ‘i’.

The first Apple logo is a bit shite. Sorry to say but not only is it too complicated but there’s a load of stupid text on it and it also features notorious virgin Isaac Newton leaning against the infamous apple tree that inspired his discovery of gravity. (That never even happened anyway).

Here, look at it…

First introduced in 1976 it was SO bad that they quickly decided that they needed to get rid and thus Steve Jobs shopped around for a new one, and when the project landed on Rob Janoff’s lap – history was made.

He came up with the infamous ‘bitten apple’ logo that they still use to this day, except in those days it was coloured with a rainbow as opposed to the standard one-colour version we have today.

It’s at this point where we hit upon many of the points raised by the Alan Turing myth – and why so many people believe it was designed to reference the man himself.

Rob Janoff

First of all, there’s the fact that the logo is an apple. Which makes perfect sense when you realise that the company itself is called ‘Apple’ – so Rob’s done himself a favour there. Then there’s the fact that the apple has been bitten. And finally – the rainbows.

What does a rainbow apple with a bite taken out of it have to do with Alan Turing? Well, for anyone who has done any research on him in the past, or has visited his statue in Sackville Gardens – quite a lot.

Turing was a computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and arguably one of the greatest minds this country has seen – so great in fact that without him you’d probably speaking German and reading this on some parchment paper instead of on a shiny computer. Probably.

His work at Bletchley Park cracking the Enigma Code assured our eventual victory over Nazi Germany and his tireless work with the earliest computing machines pretty much cemented Alan as a true science pioneer and a national hero. At the time though – this wasn’t the case.

Although Turing was briefly engaged to a woman, he was, in fact, homosexual – something which was shamefully illegal in the UK at the time. As a form of punishment for having an affair with a young man, Turing had the choice of prison or ‘hormonal treatment’ – in effect chemical castration. He chose the latter.

Two years later in 1954, Turing committed suicide by cyanide poisoning, having been found with a half-eaten apple next to his bed.

His statue in Sackville Gardens is depicted with Turing holding an apple in his hand – could this be a reference to the fruit being a traditional symbol of education and learning, his suicide or both?

To add to this there’s also the fact that the Apple logo was coloured with a rainbow, a long-standing representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride and LGBT social movements.

It’s certainly true that the rainbow flag was in usage around many of the hippie and alternative movements in and around San Francisco in the late 70’s, and so it’s not outlandish to think that Rob Janoff was aware of it when designing the logo. However, it wasn’t in full use until around 1978, a whole year and a half after he completed his Apple design.

So I think it’s pretty clear where this myth has emanated from – Rob was either a massive fan of Turing or there seems to be some serious coincidences going on. Well, unfortunately for everyone – it’s the least romantic of the two I’m afraid.

Rob has continually denied any links with the logo and Turing, explaining the rainbow away as him wanting to highlight that the Apple II was the first machine with a colour screen and the bite as a way for him to show scale as the apple looked more like a cherry without it.

So another myth has been debunked, we’re not doing too well with these really are we? I think the idea is a nice one though and as the late Steve Jobs even said himself about the links to Turing “It isn’t true, but God we wish it were!”