Hey, There’s a Piece of (Fictional) Apple History in My Hotel Room!

By  |  Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 2:45 am

Remember the nifty tech-company reference in Robert Zemeckis’s 1994 blockbuster Forrest Gump? After Forrest (Tom Hanks) and his friend Lt. Dan (Gary Sinese) found the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company in the 1970s, Lt. Dan invests its profits in a company called…Apple Computer. Forrest makes a mint and showers riches on others. Here, watch it to referesh your memory.

That letter Forrest gets from Apple? I found it in my room when I checked into my hotel in Las Vegas on Monday afternoon for the CTIA Wireless show.

This is at least slightly less peculiar than it sounds, because the hotel in question is Planet Hollywood. The last time I stayed here, it was the Aladdin; as I discovered upon my return, the remodeling that was undertaken to reflect the new name appears to consist mostly of giving each room its own movie theme. Or at least my room had a theme, and that theme was Forrest Gump.

There’s a giant photo of Forrest on a park bench above the tub, another picture of the guy above the desk, and a framed hospital shirt worn by Gary Sinese as Lt. Dan hung on one wall. And embedded in the end table next to my armchair, under a thick layer of glass, was that letter.

I’m not positive whether this particular copy is the one unfolded by Forrest in the film–here’s another, different example (a signed one). But it was presumably created by the film’s makers, and it struck me as odd and fascinating that it wound up trapped inside a table in a $99 hotel room. Then again, this is a town that forces white tigers to live out their days inside display cases in hotel lobbies, so I guess it’s appropriate.

Anyhow, the glimpse of the letter in the movie itself is tough to make out, so I considered myself privileged to be able to read it at my leisure. Googling around for information about it, I discovered that IMDB thinks it’s historically inaccurate:

Anachronisms: The letter from Apple Computer is dated 21 September 1975 (a Sunday), when Apple wasn’t a public company open for investment. Apple Computer was not incorporated until 3 January 1977, and didn’t become publicly traded until its initial public offering (IPO) on 12 December 1980.

As far as I can tell, IMDB’s quibbles are off-base: The letter is dated on September 23rd, a Tuesday. And there’s nothing odd about the notion of Forrest investing in Apple before it went public. Actually, that would be the best way to reap an unexpected windfall.

But the letter in my room is full of other anachronisms:

  • The date of September 13th, 1975 is too early: Apple didn’t exist in any form until early 1976, and the classic multicolored apple didn’t come along until 1977.
  • Apple didn’t become Apple Computer, Inc. until early 1977 (at the same time that Mike Markkula became the first investor in the company–or at least the first one who wasn’t a movie character). And it was probably 1978 or so before there was even a hint of evidence that Apple might be an investment opportunity of historic proportions.
  • The letter makes reference to the Lisa as a promising upcoming machine, but as far as I know, work didn’t get underway on it until 1979, several years after Forrest’s investment. It wasn’t officially dubbed the Lisa until 1982, and shipped in 1983.
  • I’m not going to nitpick the address on Silicon Drive (for the record, there isn’t one in Cupertino–but there is in nearby San Jose) or the fact that the letter is signed by Apple CFO J. Wellington Bigby (I could see Steves Jobs and Wozniak creating a fictional beancounter by that name).

Okay, enough obsessing. Forrest Gump is, after all, fictitious. So it’s logical enough that the Apple he invested in was an alternate-reality version that was very much like the Apple we know, but not identical. If the Apple of Forrest’s world has performed as well in recent years as the Apple of ours, I hope he left part of his investment intact.

And if I stay here for CTIA 2011, I’m gonna ask if there’s a WarGames room they can put me in….



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