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Will Work For ... Nothing? People Who Declined Their Salaries

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With Steve Jobs’ passing, I was reminded of the fact that he, for many years, had been taking a $1 salary from Apple, Inc. Other Silicon Valley tycoons, politicians, and captains of industry followed his lead. Here’s a look at a few other folks who’ve voluntarily shed their own salary.

1. George Washington

George Washington received no salary for his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Money was tight for the fledgling nation, and Washington, the fairly well-off Virginia land owner, didn’t need to stress the nearly empty treasury any more than necessary. He did, however, accept the $25,000 annual salary that came with the job of President. He said that to refuse the salary would set an awkward precedent for his successors.

2. Michael Bloomberg

In probably the most obvious “I really don’t need the money” scenario, the Mayor of New York has refused the city salary since he took office in 2002. Bloomberg, whose wealth has been estimated at over $10 billion, doesn’t need the paycheck. He probably receives more in credit card cash back bonuses than the mayor’s salary anyway.

3. Meg Whitman

The new CEO of HP (and former gubernatorial candidate) has opted to receive the fashionable $1 salary from the tech giant. However, read between the lines and you’ll see that Whitman (whose net worth is somewhere in the $1-$2 billion range) has the potential of earning millions in bonuses and the potential for millions more in stock options. At least these payouts are tied to performance, unlike her HP predecessor, Leo Apotheker, who is walking out the door with a $10 million severance check after running the company into the ground. Oh, and he only worked there for 11 months.

4. The Governator

Arnold Schwarzenegger took no salary while governor of California. Some might not see this as a generous gesture since the former bodybuilder’s net worth is probably in the hundreds of millions, but Arnold estimates he probably lost out on $10-$20 million in revenue from missed film projects during the seven years he was governor. More than that, tough though, we the public benefited by not having to be exposed to unmade films like Penultimate Action Hero and Jingle All the Way 3, 4, and 5.

5. Other Tech Guys

Following Jobs’ lead, the following tech company leaders have all taken $1 salaries in the past, but have retained enormous share holdings, and/or earned stock bonuses during the same period: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Jerry Yang and Terry Semel (Yahoo).

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The iMac Was Almost Called the MacMan
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After breaking out with its Macintosh line of personal computers in the 1980s, Apple was in a slump. Sales had flagged as Microsoft's Windows operating system made waves. In 1998, the company was set to unveil a product that it hoped would reinvigorate its brand.

And they almost blew it.

According to Ken Segall, the advertising genius behind their "Think Different" campaign, Apple founder Steve Jobs was expecting the iMac to reverse the company's ailing fortunes. Where older Macs had been boxy, beige, and bland, the iMac came in an assortment of colors and had a transparent chassis that showed off its circuitry. The problem, as Segall writes in his new book, Insanely Simple, was that Jobs didn't want to call it the iMac. He wanted to call it the MacMan.

"While that frightening name is banging around in your head, I'd like you to think for a moment about the art of product naming," Segall writes. "Because of all the things in this world that cry out for simplicity, product naming probably contains the most glaring examples of right and wrong. From some companies, you see names like 'iPhone.' From others you see names like ‘Casio G'zOne Commando' or the ‘Sony DVP SR200P/B' DVD player."

According to Segall, Jobs liked the fact that MacMan was slightly reminiscent of Sony's Walkman branding concept for its line of cassette players. (Later, Sony had a Discman, Pressman, and Talkman.) But Segall, who named products for a living, feared the name would take away from Apple's identity as being original. It was also gender-biased, and alienating an entire demographic of consumers was never a good thing.

Instead, Segall suggested "iMac," with the "i" for internet, because the unit was designed to connect easily to the web. Jobs "hated" the idea, along with other suggestions, even though Segall felt the iMac could provide a foundation to name other devices, just as Sony's Walkman had. Segall kept suggesting it, and Jobs eventually had it printed on a prototype model to see how it would look. After encouragement from his staff, he dropped MacMan. With this key contribution, Segall made sure no one would be lining up to buy a PhoneMan 10 years later. 

[h/t FastCoDesign]

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Big Questions
What Are Those Tiny Spots on Apples?
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The little pinprick spots on apples, pears, and potatoes are called lenticels (LEN-tih-sells), and they’re very important.

Plants need a constant stream of fresh air, just like people, and that “fresh air” means carbon dioxide. Flowers, trees, and fruit all take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. But unlike people, plants don’t have nostrils.

That's where a plant's lenticels come in. Each little speck is an opening in the fruit or tuber’s skin or the tree’s bark. Carbon dioxide goes in, and oxygen comes out. Through these minuscule snorkels, a plant is able to “breathe.”

Like any opening, lenticels are vulnerable to infection and sickness. In an apple disease called lenticel breakdown, a nutrient deficiency causes the apples’ spots to darken and turn into brown pits. This doesn’t hurt the inside of the fruit, but it does make the apple look pretty unattractive. In the equally appealing “lenticel blotch pit,” the skin around the apple’s lenticels gets patchy and dark, like a weird rash. 

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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