Apple Beige, revisited.

Designer Jerry Manock clarifies the Apple II’s color and production history.

A decade of beige. Photos: Bilby/Wikimedia (Apple II and III), All About Apple (Mac). All images CC BY 3.0.

“Pantone 453” was, in fact, the intended color

Because the paint I have (and the Apple II+ computer case I have) is not a good match to Pantone 453, I concluded that the Pantone reference must have been the spec color for the later Macintosh, not the earlier II.

Apple II paint was textured to hide early manufacturing defects

Manock clarifies how the early cases were molded and produced. They were made with wooden mold parts and were so variable in quality that they needed to be hand filled and sanded before painting!

Enter Albert Munsell

I shared my earlier story about Apple Beige with Chris Espinosa, the only current Apple employee who was around back when the Apple II was being developed (!). He was “surprised at the focus on Pantone because my work with Jerry [Manock] was always in Munsell.”

Albert Munsell, inventor of the Munsell Color system, shown here in black and white (1905).

Standardizing on Munsell

Manock confirmed that once Apple industrial design progressed beyond the early scramble to launch the Apple II, Pantone would not have been used for product and paint specification:

A horizontal slice of the Munsell Color “tree”. Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Apple Color Quality Control

With increasing sales volumes of the II and an expanding product line in the wings, the change was eventually made to formalized color compliance. Manock says:

Ten Years of Beige

Eventually injection molded ABS plastic was adopted in the Apple II division (sources place this changeover at the start of, or during, the Apple IIe product timeline — so sometime after early 1983). ABS plastic uses integrated color dye; paint was no longer used. Manock tells me that “Rob Gemmell was the lead product designer for that division and may have had a color match done for the beige color of the painted Apple II’s using the Munsell notation.”

Heisenberg’s Beige

I find myself back at the beginning. What color was Apple Beige? I’m no longer sure there exists any satisfying answer to that question. One valid choice is Manock’s intended “Pantone 453.” But it seems very plausible that the computers were never quite that.

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