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What is the relationship between Apple and lain?

(A daughter node of 'thought experiments lain')

(last modified: November 21st, 2009)

Background & Purpose | Reference Guide |

think different
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Background & Purpose | Reference Guide |


The makers of serial experiments lain seem to be very knowledgeable about computers. A lot of the digital effects in lain were created on Apple Macintosh machines. Chiaki Konaka (the writer of the lain scenario and screenplay) is a fan of Apple Computer and Macintosh, which he uses for graphics work (though he does his writing on a PC). In an interview, he mentions that a lot of the lain staff members (and many others within the anime industry) are Macintosh users. As such, there are several references to Apple Computer-related products and history in serial experiments lain.

that's a lot of computers


Please note that this is meant to be an informational resource, not an advertisement nor a Mac versus PC page (I routinely use both, after all). The information presented here is for lain fans who are curious about the Apple Computer references in lain. To a lesser degree, this material might also be interesting to Macintosh users who are curious about (presumably non-commercial and unauthorized) Apple product placement in Japanese animation. The overall purpose of this site is to catalog and explain the various Apple Computer references, and to provide related links should the reader desire to do further research. Of course, we welcome your comments and input.

research is fun

Background & Purpose | Reference Guide |

Reference Guide:

Think different NAVI Lain's old NAVI HandyNAVI
Alice's computer Layer ## Tachibana Copland
Nezumi's computer Close the World, Open the nExt to BE continued
Think different

This text briefly appears in episode 11 of serial experiments lain.

"Think different" is one of Apple's most successful advertising campaigns. The theme of the campaign is one that celebrates figures in history who changed the world by thinking different, and suggests to consumers that the ever-iconoclastic Apple Macintosh computer inspires and facilitates a similar type of creativity in its users.

lain screencapture - Think different. Apple - Think different.
Related links:
Think different...revisited ads we'd like to see
Apple Launches Brand Advertising Campaign the Apple press release for the Think Different ad campaign (courtesy of the Internet Archive)


NAVI are the personal computers that people use in the world of serial experiments lain. They include both desktop and handheld models (HandyNAVI). NAVI computers are linked to the Wired.

Steve Jobs and John Sculley

"NAVI" is most likely a contracted form of "Knowledge Navigator." John Sculley, the CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993, described the Knowledge Navigator in his book titled Odyssey (1987). The Knowledge Navigator was his vision of Apple computers in the 21st Century. Accurately predicting many of the changes eventually brought about by the World Wide Web, the hypothetical Knowledge Navigator would allow people to communicate with each other from anywhere in the world, would be connected to a vast shared hypertextual (Sculley cites Ted Nelson in reference to hypertext) database of information (like the Web or the Wired), and would also utilize intelligent agents or artificial intelligences to actively search out information of interest.

The Knowledge Navigator Sculley envisioned in 1987 would be suited for multimedia applications, utilizing large, high-definition, flat-display screens to support text, full-color, graphics, and computer generated animations. It would also feature high-fidelity sound, speech synthesis, and speech recognition. Sculley emphasized that the Knowledge Navigator would not need to take any specific form; it could be a desktop computer, a handheld, or even built into one's clothing.

Eventually, Sculley would implement some of his Knowledge Navigator ideas into the Newton, Apple's more-or-less unsuccessful PDA (personal digital assistant). The Knowledge Navigator concept was promoted in a video called "The Knowledge Navigator: Technologies to Get Us There and Beyond" as well as a shorter commercial for general consumption.

John Sculley's vision of the Knowledge Navigator, even if not fully realized, was important for the technologies it inspired as well as predicting the change of the personal computer's role as a productivity tool to one which is used to mediate information exchange and transfer.

knowledge navigator
View the larger version of this image.
acm article pg.1
Download John's Sculley's article about the Knowledge Navigator (includes pictures).

Related links:
Video Clips: Apple 'Knowledge Navigator' 2 short QuickTime movies

Lain's old NAVI

Described as a children's NAVI by Lain's father, this machine is what Lain uses before she asks her father for a new NAVI.

The design of Lain's old NAVI seems to be inspired by the 20th Anniversary Macintosh (released in 1997). The 20th Anniversary Mac featured a unique design (even by Macintosh standards) and excellent processing power for its time, a LCD display, and a Bose sound system. It's list price was approximately $10,000, so sales were not brisk.

Many Apple products in development have codenames. The codename for the 20th Anniversary Mac was "Spartacus."

old navi
20th Anniversary Mac
1 2

Related links:
20th Anniversary Macintosh a brief summary
Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh information and online resources


The handheld computers in the world of serial experiments lain. HandyNAVI computers can connect to the Wired.

The design of the HandyNAVI seems loosely inspired by the Apple Newton, which was the pet project of John Sculley. The Newton line is credited for having started the PDA market. It was the first handheld computer to fully utilize pen-based computing (which featured handwriting recognition). The Newton concept originally included plans to allow the device to be connected to the internet at all times, but the technology to implement such a feature did not yet exist. The Newton was preceded and partially inspired by Alan Kay's vision of the Dynabook and, of course, the Knowledge Navigator concept.

Suffering some design flaws, hampered by poor business decisions, and simply being ahead of its time, the Newton did not fare well commercially, and Apple does not currently have any products on the PDA market. Perhaps MIT's Project Oxygen will bring us closer to John Sculley's vision of a portable Knowledge Navigator which is always connected to the network.

portable navi

Alice's computer

Mizuki Alice uses a computer that looks very much like an iMac.

The iMac was introduced in 1998 and was a huge success for Apple. Featuring a vibrantly colorful design that intentionally avoided the boxy look of most computers on the market, the iMac was a modestly priced consumer-oriented desktop computer, as opposed to the professional-oriented G3, G4, and now G5 machines (also made by Apple). When they were released, iMacs were considered forward-looking in that they were designed with the internet in mind. In an attempt to move away from soon-to-be-obsolete technologies, even the early iMacs heavily utilized USB and did not include floppy disk drives. Since 1998, Apple has released several new (and more powerful) versions of the iMac. The iMac's basic design has changed over the years, as well.

Alice and her iMac
1 2
1 2

When the iMac came out, some of the advertising used the slogan "hello (again)", which was a nod to the ads for the original Macintosh which featured "hello" written on the monitor. In one of the lain omake (extra/bonus videos), there is a brief still that features Lain dressed in an iMac-blueberry-colored bear suit, and text saying "halo (again)". The text at the bottom denotes the sound of waves. (This still was brought to my attention and provided by meznu).

hello (again) hello and hello (again)

Layer ##

The beginning of each Layer features a voice giving the Layer number and title.

The voice used is Apple's "Whisper" voice from the text-to-speech software that comes with Mac OS.


Company that manufactures NAVI computers and Copland OS.

"Tachibana" is conceivably another play on "Apple" Computer. The McIntosh is an apple variety, hence the "Apple Macintosh". It turns out that Tachibana is a citrus variety, specifically Citrus tachibana from Japan, better known in the US as Mandarin Orange.


The Tachibana-developed OS (operating system) that runs on NAVI computers.

Copland was the codename for Apple's next-generation OS. Eventually, the Copland project fell through and was replaced when Apple bought NeXT, whose operating system (NEXTSTEP) would become the new basis for Apple's next-gen OS.

Nezumi's computer

The visor display computer that Nezumi uses in layer:07 "SOCIETY" features a unique-looking browser interface.

The browser interface appears to be Apple's "HotSauce" aka "Project X" (a link to "MacUser" is clearly visible onscreen). HotSauce was developed at Apple with the intent of creating a whole new web-browsing experience. Although it never really took off, there are a few HotSauce-enabled webpages still out there.

Thanks to Eric Curtis for pointing this out.

Related links:
The Meta-Content Format/Framework
Apple's HotSauce Technology ("Project X")

Close the World, Open the nExt

This slogan appears on various lain products.

Steve Jobs

nExt seems to be a play on NeXT. When Apple co-founder and current CEO Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 80's, he founded NeXT. NeXT computers were impressive machines with an advanced Unix-based OS, and they cost approximately $10,000. The Application Programming Interface (API) for NeXT was called OPENSTEP. When Apple was looking for a new OS to replace their floundering Copland project, they ended up choosing between two competing operating systems, BeOS and NEXTSTEP. They ended up buying NeXT, bringing Steve Jobs back to Apple in the process. NEXTSTEP provided the technological basis for Apple's next-gen OS project codenamed Rhapsody, which evolved into Mac OS X (which is now widely available).

There appear to be NeXT icons on the computer of Lain's father. TEL reader Kim Bruning and I think that Lain's father was using something that looks like a Motif-style window manager for The X Window System (used by UNIX and UNIX derivative operating systems). As an added piece of trivia discovered by various lain fans online, it appears that he was using AVS visualization software.

Iwakura Yasuo's computer
click for larger image
Related links:
Steve Jobs On Apple's Resurgence: "Not a One-Man Show"
Introducing NeXT - The Wonders of NEXTSTEP and OpenStep

to Be continued

This displays at the end of each episode (except the last one).

Jean Louis Gassee

The "Be" in "to Be continued" is colored like the (former) logo of Be, Inc., the makers of BeOS. Be, Inc. was founded by Jean-Louis Gassee in 1990 just after he lost his position at Apple. (Gassee was one of Apple's top men for 9 years.) The role that BeOS played in Apple history is described in the entry for nExt. After having suffered a major setback with BeOS not being bought by Apple, Be, Inc. spent several years offering a powerful Windows-alternative OS (especially suited for graphics-intensive applications) and software for Internet appliances. In late 2001, Be, Inc. was acquired by Palm, Inc.

BeOS logo to Be continued

Stefano (aka Benares), an Italian reader of this site, a computer technician, and a BeOS enthusiast, sent me some more links as well as a screenshot he took of an internal development version of BeOS he uses, codename Dano0, that was never officially released.

Related links:
BeOS 5 Personal Edition
Haiku The BeOS community lives on

Links My standard set of Lain links

This page was written by Lawrence Eng (text, basic layout, and original concept) and John Garza (additional html and consulting).

Thanks to...
Jerry Hsu for providing much-needed DVD screencaptures...
Per Hedbor for letting us use images off of his lain site...
James Kao, the only person we know who owns a Newton.

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Last updated on November 21st, 2009
Lawrence Eng