Who was Granny Smith?


Anyone who’s savored a slice of apple pie can appreciate the tart sweetness of a Granny Smith apple. And in between bites one might even wonder, where did that homely name come from, anyway?

It turns out there really was a Granny Smith. But she didn’t live in New York or Washington or any other American apple-growing state. Far from it. She and the light green varietal she created by accident hail from a small farm outside Sydney, Australia.

Born in 1799 in Sussex, England, Maria Ann Sherwood married Thomas Smith when she was 19, and together they raised five children on a farm in the village of Beckley. In 1838, the Smiths, along with several other area families, decamped for Australia, where the government was offering £25 a year to anyone willing to work the newly settled land. These were the early colonial days Down Under, when much of the country was still unexplored by Europeans. The couple put down roots in Kissing Point, known today as Ryde, and in the mid-1850s, they bought 24 acres of their own land.

The area around Kissing Point was perfect for fruit cultivation, and the Smiths, like other local families at the time, were orchardists who grew apricots, pears, apples and other tree fruits. Maria helped her husband around the farm, and also baked pies for sale at the Sydney market, where she would often pick out different varieties to incorporate into her recipes. By all accounts, her pies were top-notch. After cutting up the apples at home, she’d throw the leftover scraps into a compost heap down by a creek that cut through their property.

According to a report by local historian Hubert Rumsey in a 1924 issue of Farmer and Settler, in 1868 Maria asked a neighbor and his 12-year-old son to come over and look at some new seedlings that had sprouted down by the creek. Smith told the neighbor and his son, who would become the source for Rumsey’s article more than 50 years later, that she believed the sweet green apples derived from French crabapples grown in Tasmania (researchers have since classified them as a cross between a hybrid wild European apple and a domestic apple).

Smith cultivated the seedlings, but died two years later at the age of 70. Thankfully, local growers had also planted her seedlings on their property. One of them, Edward Gallard, grew a large crop every year until his death in 1914. In 1891, the growers exhibited “Smith’s seedling,” as they called it, at the Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show, where it won first prize in the cooking apple category. For years after that, growers exhibited the apples under the name “Granny Smith’s.”

By 1895, the Australian government was growing Granny Smith apples in bulk, and that same year listed them for sale on the export market. With its long shelf life and tart flavor, the Granny Smith apple took off after World War I, and by 1935 had reached markets in England. It took a few decades longer to reach America, in 1972, by way of the Auvil Fruit Company.

Today, Granny Smiths are among the most popular apple varieties in the U.S., available everywhere from farmers markets to big-box stores. And even though Maria Ann Smith wasn’t directly responsible for her apple’s worldwide expansion, her original tree still plays a crucial role in the cultivation process. Indeed, because the mutation that took place down by Smith’s creek was unique, cuttings derived from the original tree are required to grow every Granny Smith apple.

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
A Rare Apple Lisa 1 Computer Is Up for Auction on eBay
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Dave Jones, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For superfans of vintage Apple products, a working Apple Lisa 1 is the holy grail of collector's items. First released in 1983, the pioneering computer (the first to feature a graphic interface and a mouse) was a commercial failure and only sold 100,000 units, very few of which survived to the present day. But an eBay seller is offering up the super-rare opportunity to own one, as DesignTAXI reports.

The computer in question, selling for more than $55,000 as of January 8, is in mint condition. According to the listing, it has only been turned on a few times.

A Lisa 1 computer
professorinschubert, eBay

As you can see in the video below, everything seems to be in working order.

The seller estimates that there are only 20 to 100 Lisa 1s left in the world. And even for a Lisa 1, this one is a rare machine. Lisa computers, reportedly named after Steve Jobs’s daughter (though there have been some other theories about the name), were the only machines Apple released with its doomed Twiggy disk drives—a faulty format that turned out to be incredibly unreliable, leading to the product’s downfall. Apple then released the Lisa 2 with standard 3.5-inch floppy disk drives, offering customers free upgrades for their Lisa 1 Twiggy drives.

Since most customers jumped at the chance to make their $10,000 computer ($24,700 in today's dollars) run properly, Lisas that still have their original Twiggy drives are incredibly hard to find. The Lisa 1 on sale still has its twin Twiggy drives though, and they work, at least as well as the drives ever worked.

Whether the seller will actually get his $55,000 is questionable. In 2010, a similar Lisa 1 sold for just $15,000. But the model seems to have gained a lot of value since then, since one sold for $50,000 in November 2017.

[h/t DesignTAXI]


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