Fun_People Archive
10 Feb
APPLE'S BIG BYTE OUT OF HISTORY - censorship or merely revisionism?

Date: Fri, 10 Feb 95 19:46:20 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: APPLE'S BIG BYTE OUT OF HISTORY - censorship or merely revisionism?

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Dianna Bolt <dbolt@EECS.Berkeley.EDU>
Author: (Peter Merholz) at Internet-USA

The following article appeared in the New York Daily News:
February 8, 1995.  (pg. 10)


Apple, the company that revolutionized the personal computer industry,
apparently thinks Newt Gingrich's Third Wave Information Age means
censorship is back - especially when it comes to abortion and gays.

In a stunning move for a company long admired for its forward-looking
policies, Apple last week suddenly notified the producer of an acclaimed
American history CD-ROM that it was discontinuing shipments because of
complaints about mentions of turn-of-the-century abortion, birth control
and homosexuality.

After failing to get Voyager Co. - the producer of "Who Built America?" -
to delete the controversial sections, Apple informed the company on Jan. 31
that it was discontinuing shipments of the disc to public schools.

Apple's notice came only a few days after "Who Built America?" won the
American Historical Association's bienniel prize for "the most outstanding
contribution to the teaching and learning of history."

Since November, Apple has distributed more than 12,000 copies of the
Voyager disc, as part of its free software package bundled with new
computer shipments to public schools.

"Who Built America?" was a joint project between New York-based Voyager,
the leading U.S. publisher of CD-ROM discs, and the American Social History
Project at the City University of New York.

CD-ROM is the technology that combines text, photos, music and video into
one multi-media experience on a personal computer.  Like cd music discs,
CD-ROM discs can store immense amounts of information compared with older

Only a few minutes of viewing this disc shows you why Apple was at first so
enthusiastic.  With it, history comes alive.  You get not only a standard
text but original source documents, such as the complete video of "The
Great Train Robbery," the actual voice of William Jennings Bryan giving his
"Cross of Gold" speech, and survivors of the 1906 Atlanta race riot and the
1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire giving you firsthand accounts of
those tragedies.

But in early January, Apple executives notified Bob Stein, chief executive
of Voyager, that they had recieved some complaints, the most troubling
dealing with citations of abortion, birth control, and homosexuality.

There was, for instance, the audio interview with Elizabeth Anderson, who
recounted how, beginning in 1910, she had had 12 abortions.

And the 1882 letter from a gay German immigrant explaining how he fled to
America from his native land after being arrested for a homosexual

And the 1901 New York Times account of Murray Hall, a well-known Tammany
Hall leader who for 25 years masquereded as a man and was married twice,
though "he" was secretly a "she."

"Some people may not like the fact there was abortion in 1910, but you
can't deny it existed," said Steven Brier, the CUNY history professor who
authored the original two-volume "Who Built America" and then adapted it
for CD-ROM.

"It's unbelievable to have this project blown-off in this way," an angry
Brier said yesterday.

And for this to happen with Apple - long regarded by many as the most
creative and visionary of companies - is especially troubling.

I bought my first Apple 2E more than 10 years ago, and I came to believe
that Apple's healthy irreverence toward narrow-minded thought and arbitrary
authority was just the spirit that produced its pioneering innovations,
things like the Macintosh and the powerbook laptops.

It was Apple, remember, that not too long ago refused to build a new plant
in Austin, Tex., after the local government tried to penalize it for
providing medical benefits to same-sex domestic partners.  That time, Apple
stood on principal and won.

But now here was this public relations person, Carolyn Donohoe, giving me a
prepared statement late yesterday on the "Voyager issue."

Since the statement so clearly double-speaks for itself, I will quote it

"It's not an issue of censorship.  However, Apple has recieved some
customer complaints.  As a matter of course, Apple continually reviews the
content of its bundles based on customer satisfaction and feedback.

"Currently, Apple is evaluating the bundle titled 'Apple Educational
Series: Elementary and Secondary Reference.'  To date, Apple has neither
formally notified Voyager nor made any public announcements about future
versions of this bundle."

With the November elections behind us, and with our nation's future being
increasingly shaped by a rabid history professor named Newt Gingrich, Apple
appears ready to join the censorship posse, tossing its own once-proud
rebel legacy into the trash bin it helped make famous.


The reason I phrased the subject of this email as a question is because I
don't feel right calling Apple's action censorship, but I do think Apple's
action to be utterly reprehensible.

If you would like to respond in an official way, please email:
He's handling this in-house.

     Peter Merholz

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []