Apple Blocks Historical Documents, Designer Reveals at Book Party

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is blocking the donation of 30-year-old documents to a museum, claiming they contain valuable trade secrets.

“It’s silly,” said Hartmut Esslinger, the design guru recruited to help Apple become a leader in design in the early 1980s.

Speaking at a Jony Ive book launch party on Thursday night, Esslinger explained that Apple has prevented him from donating some historical old documents to a museum.

Esslinger’s design firm, Frog Design, was hired by Steve Jobs to bring world-class design to Apple. Esslinger’s “Snow White” design language, characterized by elegant off-white plastic cases, influenced the entire computer industry for more than a decade.


The industrial secret Apple wants kept out the public eye, Esslinger claims, is included in a binder called the “Red Book Briefing” that was presented to Steve Jobs. Among other things, the 1982 binder details some long-ago plans for a computer. The computer had a 1-MHz chip that could perform at 1 MIPS (one million instructions per second), and 1-Megapixel display.

“This is the trade secret they are trying to protect!” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Esslinger personally asked Apple’s head of design, Sir Jonathan Ive, for permission to include the Red Book Briefing in his upcoming book about the period, Amazon ($24.98).

Ive referred Esslinger to the company’s public relations department. In September, Apple’s intellectual property and copyrights office declined to let Esslinger use the material. Because he couldn’t publish it, Esslinger decided to donate it, but was told he couldn’t do that either.

Esslinger said Apple’s obsessive secrecy should be “battled.” It’s important that stories about Apple are told, he said to the crowd of journalists at the party.

Speaking at the invite-only gathering, Esslinger said it was a shame that Apple wasn’t more cooperative with journalists and historians trying to document Apple’s history.

“The story of Apple is important to be told and recorded,” he said.

During his short but sweet speech, Esslinger admitted to flying through his advanced copy of Leander’s Jony Ive book and liking it.

We’ve contacted Apple for comment.

We would like to give a shout out to all the great companies who made this event possible.

Title Sponsors
OWC; Simplifilm
Gold Sponsors
Explory; Olloclip; Moshi; Codeweavers
Silver Sponsors
Phone Halo; Speck; Catalyst; MarBlue; TYLT; Onanoff; and Bare Bones Software

And here are some pictures from the book party (All photos by Tomas Hernandez):

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Leander signed copies of his new book as it stormed up Amazon’s charts.

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Jennifer Kutz from Moshi and Gregory Hom, a lecturer in industrial design at San Jose University.

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Cult of Mac’s Traci Dauphin and Hartmut Esslinger.

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Wired.com reporter Christina Bonnington.

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The party heats up at the Lava Lounge.

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VentureBeat editor Dylan Tweney.

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BBC News technology correspondent Laura Locke and Cult of Mac Magazine editor Nicole Martinelli.

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A goody bag filled to the brim with awesome products donated by our 13 sponsors was given to all attendees.

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Literary agent Ted Weinstein and Tim Cox of ZingPR.

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MIT Technology Review’s Rachel Metz talks to Ina Fried from All Things D.

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Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld with Evan Hansen, editor of Medium, and Michael Calore, senior editor at Wired.com.

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Owen Thomas, Editor-in-Chief of ReadWrite and Cult of Mac’s Leander Kahney.

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Annika Toernqvist, head of SFGate.com with Al Saracevic, San Francisco Chronicle Sports Editor, Leander and Ina Fried from AllThingsD.

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The goody bags, designed by Traci Dauphin.

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Wired.com investigations editor Kevin Poulsen with Stefano Maffulli, open source evangelist, and Ryan Singel, founder of Contextly.

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Daniel Eran Dilger from AppleInsider and RoughlyDrafted.

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Eliane Fiolet and Hubert Nguyen, the founders of Ubergizmo.

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Peter Goldie, co-founder of Explory, with ZingPR’s Tim Cox and CoM’s Nicole Martinelli.

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Leander with Yukari Iwatani Kane, author of the forthcoming Haunted Empire, a book about Apple after Steve Jobs.

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Jason Snell and Michael Calore with KC Bradshaw of Exkclamation Design.

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Traci Dauphin with Wired.com reporter David Kravets and Adé Gobir.

And thanks again to our great sponsors:

OWC

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Simplifilm

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Explory

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Olloclip

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Phone Halo

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Speck

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Catalyst Lifestyle

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MarBlue

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TYLT

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Moshi

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Codeweavers

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onanoff

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Bare Bones

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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