“Today, I’m incredibly pleased to introduce iMac, our consumer product. And iMac comes from the marriage of the excitement of the internet, with the simplicity of the Macintosh.” With these words, ten years ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled the product that would literally save Apple from certain doom. The all-in-one, translucent computer would become a revolutionary product.The first iMac was the ‘bondi-blue’ variant, with a 233Mhz PowerPC G3 processor, 32MB of RAM, 15″ 1024×768 CRT display, 24x CD-ROM drive, 100Mb ethernet connection, stereo speakers, and, most notably, USB ports only. The iMac was the first computer to standardise on USB, ditching older Apple connnections – the rest of the industry would follow suit only years later.
However, most people will remember the iMac for its distinctive design. Computers were all beige back then, and the coloured, transparent all-in-one iMacs stood out from everything else on the market – and contrary to what some might think, this was an actual feature. By being distinctive, by being special, the iMac helped Apple’s brand-awareness more than any other product, mabe only rivalled later by the iPod. The iMac would appear everywhere – TV shows, commercials, films, music videos, shops. I distinctly remember going to the hospital to see my orthodontist (about nine years ago, I was 14 back then), and being amazed by the fruity and colourful iMacs the hospital assistants were using to retrieve my medical data. “The back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else’s,” Apple claimed. Personally, I can attest.
The iMac would turn out to be a smashing success for Apple, and during the first few months after its launch it was the best-selling computer in Japan and the United States. Several models followed, including models with other colours and even patterns, until in 2002 Apple introduced the G4 iMac.
The G4 iMac was a major overhaul of the iMac line, introducing a completely new design that you adore vehemently, or oppose heavily. A 15″ TFT display attached to a chrome swingarm, which was attached atop of a white ‘igloo’. The iMac G4 obviously meant a serious internal upgrade to, utilising the PowerPC G4 processor at 700 or 800Mhz. The ‘iLamp’ was sold until it was replaced by the iMac G5 in 2004.
The iMac G5 was another major overhaul, as it moved away from the base-swingarm-display design, putting the computer behind the display instead, much like the original iMac. This design remained more or less the same through the transition to Intel, but did recently receive an overhaul with the new Aluminium iMac.
I have a soft spot for the entire iMac line, simply because I own or have owned each design iteration of the product line. I owned a G5 iMac for a few months, loaned from Apple as a review item. Back somewhere in 2003 or 2004 I owned a G4 iMac, 700Mhz, which was my first experience with Mac OS X. Sadly, that G4 iMac died quite suddenly of a massive logic board failure. And a few years ago, for nostalgic reasons, I purchased a G3 iMac, bondi blue, 333Mhz, 96MB of RAM. I still have this one, tucked away in my walk-in closet. I don’t use it, but every now and then I take a long look at it.
It’s already been ten years. I couldn’t resist. I just dusted off my G3 iMac, and turned it on. I think I won’t be the only one.