Butt-Head Astronomer

Late-1993, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan learnt that Apple’s forthcoming computer, the Power Macintosh 7100, had been given a codename of “Carl Sagan” — the joke being that they would sell “billions and billions.” This was mentioned in a MacWEEK article some time later, to which Sagan sent the following letter in response.

Apple soon changed the codename to “BHA.” Upon learning that it stood for “Butt-Head Astronomer,” Sagan filed a lawsuit for defamation of character, and lost. He then sued Apple again, for the original codename, and lost again. So he appealed. Late-1995, the two parties settled out of court, and Apple apologised for any unintended distress caused by the situation.

The 7100’s final codename was “LAW.” It stood for “Lawyers Are Wimps.”

(Source: Jerome Croft; Image: Carl Sagan, via Astronet.)

January 10, 1994

I have been approached many times over the past two decades by individuals and corporations seeking to use my name and/or likeness for commercial purposes. I have always declined, no matter how lucrative the offer or how important the corporation. My endorsement is not for sale.

For this reason, I was profoundly distressed to see your lead front-page story “Trio of Power PC Macs spring toward March release date” proclaiming Apple’s announcement of a new Mac bearing my name. That this was done without my authorization or knowledge is especially disturbing. Through my attorneys, I have repeatedly requested Apple to make a public clarification that I knew nothing of its intention to capitalize on my reputation in introducing this product, that I derived no benefit, financial or otherwise, from its doing so. Apple has refused. I would appreciate it if you so apprise your readership.

Carl Sagan
Director, Laboratory for Planetary Studies
Center for Radiophysics and Space Research
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY