You get your brand new iPod home, in its shiny black box, which you open, and the first words you see are:

“Designed by Apple in California.”

It’s printed on the back of every iPod and iPhone, too:

Ah, the way these five words evoke a flurry of happy memories.

You think of California, not the actual state, with its endless dismal boulevards full of muffler shops and donut stores, but the California of memory: the Beach Boys, the Summer of Love, and the beatniks, a utopian land of opportunity, an escape, where you go when you leave behind the cold winters and your conservative parents back in Cleveland.

And “Apple” in California is, of course, on the literal level, a computer company, and not a very nice one, but put those words together and you think of apple orchards, and the Beatles, and you think of how Forrest Gump got rich off of Apple stock. And “designed in California…” It’s not made. It’s designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.

And, of course, it might distract your attention from the fact that we no longer make things like this in America. We design them, but they pretty much have to be made in China.

Either way, the iPod slogan Designed by Apple in California triggers a flood of emotional responses that just make you happy to have selected this MP3 player.

Of course, Microsoft’s Apple Envy is so impossible to disguise that the back of the Zune says, “Hello from Seattle:”

Um… excuse me? Hello from Seattle? That has, I’m afraid, none of the same resonance. It evokes nothing. Boeing and rain, maybe. Kurt Cobain’s unhappiness.

But really it’s just a desperate desire to be like Apple, without even a smidgen of understanding of the culture code that makes Designed by Apple in California work. It’s not even clear that anyone at Microsoft would understand that there is such a thing as a culture code, although they are to be forgiven for not reading important books by French intellectuals. After all, they’re in Seattle and it’s raining.

Anyway, we already did “Hello.” “Hello” was charming once. In 1984.

Now it’s just old.

Back to California. I’m about to get on a plane and head out to the California of Fleet Week, the Blue Angels, the Castro Street Fair, and the 49ers. Not to mention the giant Italian Heritage Day Parade.

Next week Ben and I will bring the FogBugz World Tour to the bear state. We can still squeeze you in:

  • Monday – San Francisco – full, with a long waiting list
  • Tuesday – Emeryville – still room, reserve your place soon
  • Wednesday – Mountain View – full, with a short waiting list
  • Thursday – Los Angeles – full, but no waiting list so reserve a place and we’ll probably find room for you
  • Thursday – Irvine – full, with a long waiting list
  • Friday – San Diego – still a few places left; reserve your place soon.

If you’re coming to the event in Los Angeles, please note that it has been moved to the W in Westwood.


About the author.

In 2000 I co-founded Fog Creek Software, where we created lots of cool things like the FogBugz bug tracker, Trello, and Glitch. I also worked with Jeff Atwood to create Stack Overflow and served as CEO of Stack Overflow from 2010-2019. Today I serve as the chairman of the board for Stack Overflow, Glitch, and HASH.