Nuclear Apple


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On Mar. 29, 1955, the United States' Los Alamos National Laboratory detonated a 14-kiloton nuclear bomb in Nye County of southern Nevada, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Codenamed "Apple", this test was the the eighth of 18 nuclear tests the government would conduct that calendar year.

Five weeks later, on May 5, 1955, another bomb was detonated in the same space. Unlike the previous low-yield weapon, this one measured in the intermediate range at 29 kilotons. It used its predecessor's naming convention for the codename: "Apple-2".

Apple-2 nuclear test.

As Apple II historian Steve Weyhrich wrote, "[I] never realized what a hot commodity we've been dealing with over the past 30 years."

That groaner aside, it's a fascinating to know the coincidental history of the Apple II name. Although the weapon of mass destruction presumably did not inspire the personal microcomputer (nor, obviously, vice versa), nuclear warfare would ultimately have a bearing on the development of the platform. The USA's first-ever nuclear weapon test, conducted on July 16, 1945, was codenamed "Trinity", which became the name of Infocom's post-apocalyptic text adventure, whose feelie was a comic book entitled The Illustrated Story of the Atom Bomb.

Two years later, in 1988, the Apple II revisited the horror of nuclear armageddon with Electronic Arts' role-playing game, Wasteland, the spiritual origin for the extremely popular modern-day RPG series, Fallout.

The Apple II and the nuclear bomb: both incredibly powerful tools — one for creation, the other for destruction — yet sharing the same name. A brilliant team of well-funded scientists can change the world as much as a lone genius in a garage. If only all creations left as positive a legacy as Steve Wozniak's.

(Hat tip to David Gewirtz)