When Is Apple Beige Not Apple Beige?

If we cast our minds back a few decades, almost all computers were a beige colour. “Beige box” even became a phrase for a generic PC, such was their ubiquity. Long before PCs though there were other beige computers, and probably one of the first to land on the desks of enthusiasts rather than professionals was the Apple ][. But exactly what beige colour was it? It’s a question that interested [Ben Zotto], and his quest led him through a fascinating exploration of a colour most of us consider to be boring.

We’re used to older beige computers becoming yellow with time, as the effect of light and age causes the fire retardants in their plastic to release bromine. But the earlier Apple products haven’t done this, because their beige came not from the plastic but from a paint. [Ben] was lucky enough to find a small pot of touch-up paint from Apple that was made available to dealers, so notwithstanding any slight pigment changes from its age, he set off in pursuit of its origin.

Along the way to identifying a modern Pantone shade (Pantone 14–0105 TPG, for the curious) he treats us to a cross-section of Apple’s early colour history with reference to the memories of early Apple luminaries. He even suggests readily available shades that could suffice, pointing to Gloss Almond Rust-Oleum spray paint.

So should you wish to colour-match to an early Apple, now you can. If you have a Commodore or an Atari though, maybe your task is a little easier.

20 thoughts on “When Is Apple Beige Not Apple Beige?

  1. I guess it went like this:
    1. Steve Jobs wants a special beige.
    2. Steve Job gets talked into regular Pantone 453 because it’s easier to source.
    3. The paint company delivers some other beige, no one notes the difference.

    4. Finally, Ben Zotto notes the difference

      1. “And after it rains, there’s a rainbow,
        but all of the colors are black.
        It’s not that the colors aren’t there,
        it’s just imagination they lack.
        Everything’s the same fact.
        -My Little Town (Simon and Garfunkel)

  2. It wasn’t the color that’s boring it’s the basic rectangle box without any useful front io. Who else remembers putting the tower on your desk backwards so you could easily reach the ports on the back? Just ordered some almond gloss, I’ll see how accurate it looks compared to my brains memories.

    1. “Who else remembers putting the tower on your desk backwards so you could easily reach the ports on the back?”

      From a time and motion point of view that just sounds silly.

  3. Anyone dealing with appliance repair has most likely come across the multitude of beige touch-up enamel shades and has had a debate with some scruffy-looking redneck guy over whether something is bisque, biscuit or bone.

  4. Back in the 1980s I made an accessory for the C64 which we wanted to match the C64’s color of possible. I visited the paint store, and learned it’s not just the color but the light source. He put the C64 inside a special light box along with some painted samples. He could simulate various lighting conditions such as sunshine, incandescent, fluorescent, etc.

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