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11 Quirky Code Names for Apple Products

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Apple uses secret internal code names for many of its products before they're released. Over the years, they've come up with some really weird ones -- including one that led to multiple lawsuits.

1. "Carl Sagan"/"Butt-Head Astronomer" - Power Macintosh 7100

Apple hoped to make "billions and billions" from this midrange model of the Power Mac. Naturally, they called it "Carl Sagan"...until Sagan sued Apple to make them knock it off. (Other code names for related products included "Piltdown Man" and "Cold Fusion"; Sagan didn't like being associated, even secretly, with a hoax and pseudoscience.) Although Sagan lost the suit -- probably because the code name was never used in public marketing -- Apple changed the name. The new name: "BHA" (which was short for "Butt-Head Astronomer"). Sagan again sued, this time for libel, and lost.

2. "C1" - iMac

iMac (Bondi Blue)

The original iMac went by the extremely boring code name "C1" and Steve Jobs reportedly wanted to call the finished product "MacMan," as an homage to the Sony Walkman. Terrified by the prospect of a product named "MacMan," a group of advertising creatives thought up a series of alternatives, eventually developing "iMac" and convincing Jobs to use it. Ken Segall tells the story of how the iMac was almost a MacMan. (Shudder.)

3. "I Tripoli" and "Cube-E" - System 7.1

Apple's "System 7" operating system was a big deal, with the original version bearing the code name "Big Bang" as it heralded the addition of key features like QuickTime, crappy cooperative multitasking, and virtual memory. When the System 7.1 update rolled around, Apple built it to comply with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standards, hence the code names -- "IEEE" is generally pronounced "I triple-E."

4. "Kanga" - PowerBook G3

Prior to the much-beloved "Wallstreet" and "Pismo" PowerBook G3 models was an odd duck code named "Kanga," possibly for the Winnie-the-Pooh character. Kanga was billed as the fastest notebook in the world, and it was effectively a G3 CPU crammed into a pre-existing PowerBook 3400 body. Because fully redesigned PowerBook G3 models hit the market just 5 months after Kanga debuted, Wikipedia reports: "Kanga has the dubious distinction of being Apple's fastest depreciating PowerBook."

5. "Peter Pan" - Macintosh TV

Macintosh TV

The Macintosh TV was an anomaly in the Mac lineup -- it was effectively a Performa in a black chassis, with a 14-inch CRT screen that could be switched between "computer mode" and "TV mode" (it had a cable TV tuner, enabling the TV features). Its TV integration functions were minimal, allowing only screenshots, plus you couldn't play TV in a window while doing other work -- it was fullscreen TV or fullscreen computer, which might have held some appeal for dorm rooms, except that the machine cost over $2,000 and wasn't particularly fast. It did come with a Sony-compatible remote control, though. As to why it was called Peter Pan, I can't find any concrete proof, but I can imagine that boys who don't want to grow up would love to watch TV on their computers rather than typing up boring school papers.

6. "Piltdown Man" - Power Macintosh 6100

The Power Macintosh 6100 was Apple's first computer using the PowerPC CPU architecture. It was a big deal, partly because it changed the startup sound from the then-standard chime to a guitar chord. It was code named "Piltdown Man" after a fossil hominid hoax, a supposed "missing link" between apes and humans -- the 6100 was seen as the link between the original Macintosh models and the new PowerPC models. Unlike the hoax "Piltdown Man," the Power Macintosh 6100 really was a bridge to the new world, and there was even a 6100 model with DOS/Windows 3.1 compatibility.

7. "Q" - Newton MessagePad 2000

Newton MessePad 2000

The Newton MessagePad 2000 was the second-to-last Newton ever made: a 2100 model with minor improvements came out shortly after, then all Newtons were discontinued as part of Steve Jobs's Apple product line restructuring. Online accounts of the "Q" code name vary; some suggest that it refers to the Star Trek: The Next Generation character, others the James Bond character who made awesome gadgets, and others simply the alphabet letter. It may also be related to the competing Samsung Q1 product, though my money's on Bond.

8. "Spartacus," "Pomona," and "Smoke and Mirrors" - Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh

Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh

When Apple Computer Inc. turned twenty, it released an insanely awesome (and radically expensive) twentieth anniversary computer. A beautifully designed system, the TAM was a sort of hybrid laptop/desktop akin to today's flat-screen iMacs (albeit much smaller and roughly seven times the price). It featured an LCD screen, TV integration, a custom Bose speaker system (including subwoofer), a leather wrist rest on the keyboard, and a trackpad rather than the typical mouse. Only 12,000 were made, and they initially retailed for $7,499 -- until the final models were cleared out at the bargain price of $1,995 after Steve Jobs returned to Apple.

9. "Spock" - Macintosh IIx

The Macintosh IIx was the first Mac to ship with a "SuperDrive," which at the time meant a 1.44MB floppy drive (the term was later redefined to mean a CD/DVD drive capable of burning discs). It's only logical that Apple product managers would name it after their favorite Vulcan.

10. "Spruce Goose" - PowerBook 540

PowerBook 540

The PowerBook 540 was a nice laptop (I owned one and loved it), but it was really heavy -- over 7 pounds, the thing felt like a brick when compared to the ultra-light (for the time) PowerBook Duo 280, which weighed a little over 4 pounds. Hence, while the laptop was big, powerful, and ambitious, it was a lot like Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, which flew only once. (For the record, the Spruce Goose was made primarily of birch.)

The PowerBook 540 series was also code named "SR-71," for the SR-71 Blackbird, a decidedly sleeker stealth aircraft that shared some design elements (dark curves) with the laptop.

11. "Mackelangelo" - MacDraw

MacDraw was a vector (line-based) drawing program released alongside the original Macintosh. It was handy for making flowcharts and diagrams, but wasn't as popular as the iconic MacPaint, which was famously used by Andy Warhol at Sean Lennon's ninth birthday party (Warhol was quite excited to draw a circle using the mouse). MacDraw was handy, but it didn't exactly turn Mac users into Mackelangelos.

More Code Names

Check out Wikipedia's list of Apple code names as well as the Apple Code Names collection at The Apple Museum.

(All images courtesy of Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons.)

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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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