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The hidden code names (and their meaning) behind Apple's iconic products

From the iPhone to the Apple Watch, every one has had a code name…

APPLE’S CULTURE OF secrecy means all products get code names before they leave the Cupertino campus.

Most of them are fun jokes, but one has even landed Apple in a lawsuit with a famous astronomer.

Here are nine of the best code names for Apple products:

The Purple Project

In late 2004, years before the rest of the world would hear of an iPhone, a small group of Apple engineers started working on a secret project.

Apple Apple CEO Steve Jobs showing off Face Time at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday, 7 June 2010 in San Francisco. Source: Paul Sakuma/PA

The top-secret project, codenamed “purple,” was the development of the iPhone. The Purple Project was worked on inside what was nicknamed the “Purple Dorm.” “We put up a sign that said ‘fight club’ — first rule of the Purple Project is you don’t talk about Purple Project outside those doors,” revealed Scott Forstall during Apple’s trial against Samsung. Apparently the Purple Dorm also smelled like pizza, just like college.

Apple iPhone Scott Forstall told the inside story of the development of the iPhone 5 years after it had been revealed publicly Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Life Savers

The original iMac G3 came out in 1998 in a bright “Bondi Blue” color. When Apple updated its iMac with the Revision C model, the company introduced five new colors: Blueberry, Grape, Strawberry, and Tangerine.

imac Source: Apple

The five brightly colored machines were nicknamed the “Life Savers.” Jobs joked at the 1999 unveiling that “we hope people want to collect all five.”

14530598218_4b498db310_k Source: Wackystuff/Flickr

The Carl Sagan

In 1994, Apple launched the Power Macintosh 7100, a computer that was supposed to earn them “billions and billions” in reference to its internal code name.

mac Source: www.allaboutapple.com

The computer was first nicknamed “Carl Sagan” after the American astronomer. The Power Macintosh 7100 didn’t go on to make “billions and billions,” but it did bring a libel lawsuit from Carl Sagan. Sagan found out about the code name when it was revealed in an interview in MacWeek in 1993, a year before the computer hit the market. After he complained, Apple employees renamed the project “BHA” or “Butt-headed astronomer”.

sagan Source: AP

Sagan didn’t take the renaming kindly. He filed a lawsuit against the BHA codename and lost. Then he filed another for the original Carl Sagan code name and lost again. Apple and Sagan eventually reached an out-of-court agreement to stop the back and forth, but not before Apple engineers changed the name one last time to “LAW” — short for “Lawyers are wimps.”

sagan2 Source: Steve Blackburn/Flickr


Mozart / Chicago

Before Apple renamed it “Mac OS,” the operating systems for Apple were just called Systems. In 1995, Apple was working on its System 7.5 release.

gui This is what System 7 used to look like Source: GUI Guidebook

According to Apple lore, the company was calling 7.5 “Mozart” after the famous composer. This was 1995, and Apple heard its competitor was working on the Windows 95 system, codenamed “Chicago.” After learning of Microsoft’s name, Apple employees reportedly changed their code name to be “Capone” after the infamous Chicago gangster to strike fear into the hearts of Microsoft.

capone Al Capone Source: About.com


While many people wanted it to be called the iWatch, the Apple Watch had a code name of its own.

Apple named world's most valuable brand at £112bn Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Revealed by a former Apple CTO, the internal code name for the Apple Watch was “Gizmo.” It could be a reference to the character from 1984 movie “Gremlins,” but it’s more likely the nonsensical word that means gadget.

gizmo Source: Youtube


MacDraw was released as part of the first Apple system in 1984.

macdraw Source: Pez Pengelly/Flickr

It almost launched with its super cute code name “Mackelangelo”.

sistine The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as painted by Michelangelo, not the Mackelangelo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Piltdown Man

When Apple released the Power Macintosh 6100, it was supposed to be a missing link between two of its earlier products.

power Source: Sebastian Wenzeler/Wikimedia Commons

Apple employees gave it the codename “Piltdown Man”, a fossil hoax from the early 1900s. The Piltdown man was supposed to be the “missing link” between apes and humans. The fossil turned out to be a hoax, but the Power Macintosh 6100 did exist.

pilt The portrait painted by John Cooke in 1915. Back row: (left to right) F.O. Barlow, G. Elliot Smith, Charles Dawson, Arthur Smith Woodward. Front row: A.S. Underwood, Arthur Keith, W.P. Pycraft, and Sir Ray Lankester. Note the painting of Charles Darwin on the wall Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Peter Pan

Long before the Apple TV, the company tried its hand at making the Macintosh TV. Released in 1993, the computer had a cable-TV tuner, so you could swap back and forth between watching TV and doing your computer work. It turns out its nickname was an unfortunate harbinger of its success.

apple Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mac TV reportedly went by two names internally: Peter Pan and LD50 (a medical term for lethal dose at 50%). The Mac TV failed to grow up and only sold 1,000 units.

youtube1 Source: Youtube

The Wine Cellar

While outwardly Apple’s operating systems were being named after big animals, internally most of the code names focused on wine.

apple3 Source: Apple

The company has cycled through many varieties. Pinot was reportedly for OS X 10.3 (Panther), Merlot was for OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and Zinfandel was for OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). Even when Apple moved on to California landmarks with the release of Mavericks, it reportedly stayed in the wine tradition with Cabernet.

wine Cheers to you, Apple Source: Flickr/Emilio Labrador

- Biz Carson

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