Open Apple turns three

February 10th, 2014 12:44 PM
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Filed under Musings;
6 comments.

Last week marked a significant milestone: the third anniversary of Open Apple. The monthly Apple II podcast launched on February 7, 2011, giving me pause to reflect how this adventure began.

Open AppleI first had the idea for an Apple II podcast on Sunday, April 12, 2009, while listening to the TrekCast. If there could be a podcast about Star Trek, a show that'd been off the air for four years, why not one about a computer that's not been manufactured for 16? I had the topic, but no structure — I thought Juiced.GS associate editor Andy Molloy and I could just spitball news and memories for a few hours, break it up into some monthly episodes, and see what happened. But nothing did.

Fast forward to August 12, 2010, when I started compiling a list of domain names that would be attractive to an Apple II user. I shared that list with some fellow KansasFest attendees, prompting Mike Maginnis to identify himself as the owner of open-apple.net, a domain I'd investigated and found to be held by a private registrant. I asked him what he was planning to do with the domain, and he said he'd been thinking of launching a podcast — a marvelous synchronicity! Given my previous enthusiasm for the idea, I asked if I could could piggyback on his initiative. He, Andy, and I started brainstorming what the show would sound like. We chatted with the hosts of the RetroMacCast for technical suggestions, built a Web site, and recorded some practice sessions (there exists a complete, unaired "episode zero").

Finally, on February 5, 2011, Andy and I crowded into the Computerworld recording studio, called Mike on Skype, and recorded our first episode… twice, due to technical difficulties. Two days later, we put the first episode online. Until that day, only the three of us were aware Open Apple was launching; it came as a complete surprise to everyone else.

Now it's three years later, and we just aired our 35th episodeactually our 41st, due to some inconsistent episode numbering. In total, the show has produced 59 hours and 39 minutes of airtime about the Apple II. If Open Apple were a sitcom, it would've been running for 162 episodes, or eight seasons.

It's amazing how effective Mike and Andy have been at turning a concept into reality. Every month, they keep the show moving by scouring the Web for news and guests, booking recording times, and getting the word out that we are the only monthly Apple II podcast, and the only co-hosted podcast. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, of course — there are several other excellent retrocomputing podcasts out there. But just as the podcasts support each other, so too do the crew of Open Apple, making real what no one person could've done.

My thanks to everyone who's built and supported this wonderful community outlet, from the hosts to the guests to the listeners. Here's to many more years on the air!

Also read my co-host's more thoughtful and detailed reflection on our podcast's history.

The origin of the logo

May 21st, 2012 10:09 PM
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Filed under History, Steve Jobs;
1 comment.

Apple rainbow logoApple Inc.'s logo has been through three major revisions: from the early, cerebral scene of Sir Isaac Newton, to the rainbow logo we Apple II users identify with, to the modern, sleek, silver fruit. The shape of the logo has not significantly changed in more than three decades, its simplicity proving enduring. Such a legacy inspires questions to its origins, which designer Rob Janoff answered in a 2009 interview. Were the rainbow theme and the bite from the apple a joint reference to the fate of Alan Turing, the supposed "father of computer science" who committed suicide by biting a cyanide-laced apple, to avoid prosecution for homosexuality? It's a clever tale, but not one that holds up to Janoff's take on history — though supposedly, Steve Jobs himself refused to debunk the myth.

A recent article in Scientific American, "Hunters of Myths: Why Our Brains Love Origins", explains Jobs's reticence:

Jobs, it seems, understood intuitively an important facet of our minds: we like to know where things come from. We like stories. We like nice tales. We need our myths, our origins, our creations. It would be disappointing to know that the apple was nothing more than an apple—and the bite, a last-minute addition to clarify scale, so that it was clear that we were seeing an apple and not a cherry. And that rainbow? A representation of a screen’s color bars, since the Apple II was the first home computer that could reproduce color images on its monitor.

How boring. How much of a letdown. Far better to have a story " and the better the story, the better for us.

The article elaborates on this anecdote, using it as an example of why clever or secret origin stories are often preferable to the truth:

Psychologist Tania Lombrozo argues that such impromptu causal explanations are critical to our everyday cognition. They contribute to improvements in learning. They can foster further exploration and idea generation. They can help us form coherent beliefs and generalize about phenomena—and then use those beliefs to understand, predict, and control future occurrences and, in turn, form new beliefs.

It's a short but interesting article that demonstrates yet another aspect of Jobs's genius. His contribution to design may've been questionable, and his first tour of duty at Apple may've marked him as an irascible manager who failed to respect the humanity of his employees — but given the success of his products, Jobs did seem to have a keen understanding, if not of human nature, then of human desire. Even when it comes to logos:

Steve Jobs’s silence was truly perceptive. Sometimes, it's just better to let natural human tendencies take over and start weaving tales, true or not, that will help people understand and relate to you better than anything you say ever could.