A One-Off ‘Simpsons’ Joke Helped Design The iPhone

Every episode of The Simpsons between seasons three and six is a classic, but in the EXTRA classic episode, “Lisa on Ice,” Kearney asks fellow misshapen bully Dolph to take a memo on his Newton, Apple’s ill-fated digital assistant that’s mostly remembered these days in the context of this episode. Dolph writes, “Beat up Martin,” which his Newton translates to, “Eat up Martha,” a far dirtier instruction that I’m only just now understanding.

ANYWAY. Fast Company recently interviewed dozens of Apple employees, both current and former, for an oral history of the company’s design, including Scott Forstall, who served as the senior vice president of iOS software. One of his main tasks was to “nail the [iPhone’s] keyboard,” and he looked to The Simpsons for inspiration.

According to a former high-level engineer, one of the top priorities for Scott Forstall, then-senior vice president of iOS software at Apple, was to nail the keyboard. He knew if he couldn’t deliver on the promise of typing, then multitouch, the core method for interaction on the iPhone, would be a failure. Critics, infamously including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, were loudly proclaiming that the iPhone would be a flop, even before it hit market, because the device lacked a physical keyboard.

“In the hallways [at Apple] and while we were talking about the keyboard, you would always hear the words ‘Eat Up Martha,'” [Nitin Ganatra, Apple’s former director of engineering for iOS applications] recalls. “If you heard people talking and they used the words ‘Eat Up Martha,’ it was basically a reference to the fact that we needed to nail the keyboard. We needed to make sure the text input works on this thing, otherwise, ‘Here comes the Eat Up Marthas.'” (Via)

SPOILER: Apple resolved their keyboard problem, and no one ate up Martha. BEH.

(Via Fast Company)