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Understanding the Enigma of the Apple Computer Logo
Greg Gore


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While I was attending the 2002 Edinburgh International Festivals in Scotland, a lecturer made the statement that the famous Apple Computer logo (a profile of a rainbow colored apple with a bite out of it) was in homage to Alan Turing, the generally acknowledged father of the computer and the developer of the “Turing Test,” which pioneered the field of artificial intelligence. The lecturer went on to explain that Turing had committed suicide at the age of 42 by taking a bite from an apple laced with cyanide.

She said she had gotten this information from the production notes to the film, “Enigma.” I had never heard this fascinating story and thought it deserved some investigation.

“Enigma” is a 2001 British film available on video and DVD. Starring Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott, “Enigma” is based on the best-selling mass-market paperback of the same title by Robert Harris (Ivy Books, 1996). It is a fictionalized account of the successful British Government Code and Cypher School’s effort to break the Nazi’s enigma code during World War II.

In the film, Dougray Scott portrays Tom Jericho, a mathematician and code-breaking whiz loosely based on Turing.

In real life, it was Alan Turing’s genius that was central to breaking the code of the German Enigma machines, by which the German high command communicated with U-boats, ships, and air and troop bases. The British were particularly desperate to stop the German U-boats because they were wreaking havoc on the Allied ships that supplied Britain with necessary goods and materials.

Turing, an eccentric genius born in London in 1912, was educated at King’s College, Cambridge and received a PhD from Princeton University. During his childhood, he excelled at mathematics and had a keen interest in organic chemistry and poisons. As a young teenager at the Sherbourne School, a boarding school in Dorset, he became aware of his homosexuality.  While at Sherbourne, he had a tragic homosexual love affair with a fellow student who died of tuberculosis. The death of this young lover led to Turing’s obsession with consciousness and with the idea of whether or not a machine can have a soul.

After the war, Turing continued his research on computer development at Manchester University until 1952 when he was arrested for his homosexuality on the grounds of “gross indecency” with a 19-year old boy. This was a felony offense under British law, and to stay out of prison Turing agreed to be, in effect, castrated by injection with female hormones. His reputation was ruined and the British Government removed his security clearance. On June 7, 1954, his housekeeper found his body. Next to his body was a cyanide-filled apple from which one bite had been taken. 

References linking the origin of the Apple Computer logo to Alan Turing’s suicide can be found in Emily Blunt’s film review of “Enigma” at Another reference linking Turing’s suicide to the Apple Computer logo can be found at

Additional research makes me skeptical about the link between Turing and the Apple logo. According to an account given in the “History” link at, the famous apple logo was developed for Apple Computer’s introduction of the Apple II computer in 1977.  Rob Janoff of Regis McKenna Advertising designed the logo with the apple representing “the acquisition of knowledge.” This account goes on to describe how Steve Jobs added the rainbow colors to the logo Janoff designed to emphasize the Apple II’s superior color output.

An earlier Apple Computer logo featured Sir Isaac Newton under an apple tree. Photos of this early logo along with other photos of the evolution of Apple logos can be seen at

While the Turing link to the Apple logo makes for interesting conversation, it doesn’t appear to stand up under close examination.


The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on February 12, 2003. Greg Gore can be reached at

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