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Throwback Thursday: Why Apple is called Apple

Apple is one of the most celebrated brands in history, boasting a mammoth base of customers and fans that span the entire globe. With the iconic Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad lines of products squeezed into its portfolio, it's easy to see why.

Far and away the premier consumer technology company in the world, Apple is one of few firms that still manages to whip up a real frenzy whenever it launches a new device (even if its products, technically speaking, aren't exactly the best on the market).

However, things weren't always so glamourous. Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, Apple merely served as a young pretender, desperate to dethrone some of the more established tech firms on the market. As we all now know, Apple eventually succeeded, but how did the company get its name in the first place?

As is always the case with these matters, years of history and scores of speculators have somewhat warped reality. Have a quick search on the web and you'll probably stumble across around 15 different theories on the first page of results alone. Here are just a handful of the stories in circulation:

  • Apple founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne wanted to distinguish themselves from the cold, unapproachable imagery associated with rivals such as IBM
  • Apples were Jobs' favourite fruit
  • Jobs used to work at an apple orchard
  • Jobs and Wozniak wanted the company to be listed ahead of Atari (which Jobs used to work for) in the phonebook
  • It was meant as a tribute to Apple Records, the music label of The Beatles
  • The name, logo and "Think different" tagline served as a reference to the story of Adam and Eve

However, how much of this is actually true? Fortunately, Jobs and Wozniak have both spoken openly about Apple's etymology in a number of interviews and books. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Way back in the 80s, Wozniak told the San Jose Mercury News, "Steve [Jobs] said he had an idea for a name - Apple Computer. He doesn't always let on where ideas come from, or how they come into his head. That was constantly true all the time. We both tried to think of names that were more suggestive or technological words for the name of the company. The more we thought, the more they all sounded boring compared to Apple.

"[Jobs] did work in an orchard up in the state of Oregon. Maybe it was Washington. I think it was Oregon. It was just my opinion that maybe they had apple trees in their orchards, you know? Maybe that's where the idea popped in. Maybe it was just listening to a Beatles' song."

Wozniak's 2006 autobiography, entitled, 'iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It', sheds some more light on the situation:

"I remember I was driving Steve Jobs back from the airport along Highway 85. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an 'apple orchard'. It was actually some kind of commune. Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer. The first comment out of my mouth was, 'What about Apple Records?' This was (and still is) the Beatles-owned record label. We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn't think of any good ones. Apple was so much better, better than any other name we could think of."

Lo and behold, Apple was indeed sued by Apple Records over trademark violations in 1989.

In the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson in 2011, Jobs revealed he was "on one of my fruitarian diets" and, having just returned from an apple farm, thought that the name sounded "fun, spirited and not intimidating."

I believe I speak for most people when I say that they absolutely nailed it.