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ExtraBITS for 18 August 2014

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This week in ExtraBITS, Apple has banned two potent toxins from iPhone assembly plants, we delve into the origins of clicking “x” to close a window, Apple releases a not-so-diverse diversity report, and the New York Times gets an inside peek at Apple University.

Apple Bans Two Toxins from iPhone Assembly Plants -- Apple has banned the use of two chemicals that endangered the health of Chinese iPhone assemblers: n-hexane, which is used to clean screens and could cause nerve damage and paralysis; and benzene, a known carcinogen that’s used to coat electronic components. However, these chemicals are still in use further up in the supply chain, and Apple is being pressured to eliminate them from the entire chain.

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The Origin of “x” to Close -- On Medium, Lauren Archer has tracked the evolution of the use of “x” as a symbol to denote closing a window. While it’s now ubiquitous on both Mac and Windows, it wasn’t a common convention until Windows 95, which in turn picked it up from NeXT, but Archer traces the symbol’s origins even earlier, to Atari’s TOS 1.0 from 1985.

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Apple Releases Diversity Report -- Following in the footsteps of other tech companies, Apple has revealed statistics about the diversity of Apple employees. Unsurprisingly, Apple is mostly composed of white males, of which CEO Tim Cook said, “As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them.” However, Cook did not offer specifics on how he plans to achieve that, but he did mention three women who have recently been hired into executive roles at Apple: Angela Ahrendts, Lisa Jackson, and Denise Young-Smith.

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An Inside Look at Apple University, Where Picasso Rules -- Brian X. Chen of the New York Times was granted a rare, if limited, peek into Apple University, the company’s internal training program. The program offers courses on Apple business decisions, design choices, and what makes Apple tick. One of the more interesting tidbits is that Apple uses lithographs of Picasso’s “The Bull” as an example of how to narrow a concept to its essential elements.

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