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Think Retro: A love letter to the Apple logo

Christopher Phin | Nov. 12, 2014
Macworld's newest column, a celebration of classic Apple, kicks off with a deep appreciation for the rainbow logo of yore.

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Welcome to Think Retro, a new weekly column which is unashamedly in love with yesterday's Apple. Over the next few weeks you'll see a mix of practical advice, hidden histories and wildly nostalgic love letters to beautiful old pieces of hardware and software--but we start with the Apple logo. More specifically, we start with the classic, rainbow Apple logo--the real Apple logo, I'm sure you'll agree. Like a lot of us, I miss it hugely.

Actually, what I miss even more than the abstract idea of the rainbow Apple logo are the little badges that used to be affixed onto Apple hardware, stuck into a perfect, slight recess in the plastic. Here's what I'm talking about, and in this case, it's emblazoned on the very last Apple product ever to sport it. (Bonus points to you if you can name which product that was before I tell you at the end!)

There's something intensely pleasing, isn't there, about how it's glossy and smooth, nestled in that sea of roughly textured black plastic--a wave-polished pebble on a sandy beach. Of course, for most of its life, following its introduction on the Apple II in 1977, it adorned not black computers but beige, as on my Macintosh Classic II here.

I don't think I've ever quite gotten over the childlike excitement I get from seeing that logo, that badge, on a computer. It speaks to me of delight and quality and, frankly a kind of exclusivity and unattainability; we had Amstrad PCWs at home in Scotland when I was a kid because there was no way we could afford a Mac. This is a big part of the reason I have a terrible weakness for buying vintage Apple stuff on eBay now -- it's because for a few bucks I can actually own the things that I yearned impotently for when I was a youngster.

Michael Scott (Apple's first CEO in this context, not a regional manager for Dunder Mifflin) called it "the most expensive bloody logo ever designed", partly because color reproduction used to be vastly more expensive than black and white 30-some years ago. From the very beginning, though, its designer, Rob Janoff, presented monochrome and metallic versions alongside the rainbow one, a necessity since full-color reproduction everywhere was impractical. So you could say that ditching the colored stripes was at least as much a retro move as keeping them!

I think I love it so much to this day, though, because it so obviously is an expensive badge to add to a computer; it's not just something silk-screened on as they roll off the assembly line.


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