Thursday, May 3, 2018

20 Years of iMac

Michael Steeber:

Placed side-by-side with today’s models, the original Bondi blue iMac is nearly unrecognizable as a member of the same family. Yet, the iMac’s lineage follows one unbroken thread over the past two decades. Apple’s goal to make a powerful, easy to use all-in-one has not wavered. Perhaps Jony Ive summed it up most succinctly when he said Apple’s approach was to “evolve a solution until it seems completely inevitable, completely essential.”

The iMac’s design story is one of endless evolution, proof that innovation is the result of unrelenting iteration.

See also: ATPM 4.08, 4.09, and 4.10.

Update (2018-05-08): Josh Centers:

The iMac has now been around for 20 years, and 9to5Mac’s Michael Steeber documents its history from the original Bondi blue model (see “Welcome, iMac!,” 6 May 1998 and “iMac Hoopla,” 17 August 1998) to the current iMac Pro (see“Apple Releases the iMac Pro,” 15 December 2017).

Jason Snell:

Anyway, Andy Gore pretty much nailed his commentary on the iMac. Jobs choosing Flint Center at the venue was appropriate.

Jason Snell:

It’s hard to believe today that a Steve Jobs product presentation would be met with indifference, but there was a huge amount of skepticism about Apple’s product announcements back in early 1998.

John Gruber:

Until the iMac was unveiled, the only thing Apple had really shipped in the post-NeXT-reunification era was the Think Different ad campaign. That was a great campaign, but still, mere words, not action. The iMac was the first real product, and it set the stage for everything that has come since.

Tim Cook:

20 years ago today, Steve introduced the world to iMac. It set Apple on a new course and forever changed the way people look at computers.

Peter Cohen:

The first iMac was everything that PCs (and many previous Macs) weren’t. Bulbous, round, organic-looking, colorful. Free of legacy ports like parallel and serial connections, equipped instead with the then-novel USB interface for easy peripheral connectivity. An integrated design that didn’t lend itself to tinkering, but made the iMac less scary to people who weren’t familiar with computers.


I really enjoyed this weekend’s 20th anniversary celebration of the iMac.

It reminded me of when Apple still released new Macs

Lance Newcomb:

Apple took 8 months to design and ship the iMac. Yet it takes you TWO YEARS to design a new Mac Pro?

Update (2018-05-10): See also: Riccardo Mori, Jason Snell.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

With the iMac Pro adding a dark color, it'd be super sweet to have some more colors appear for the 20th anniversary!

Okay, fair warning, not going to lavish praise, just a frank assessment of my personal experience.

First the good stuff. I fell in love with the original iMac. So sleek, so cool, great color, design, etc. Wanted to upgrade my computer at first sight, but I ended up waiting a couple years until the summer 2000 models hit the scene. One, they were a little quieter than the original models; two, they were a little sleeker in basic design (slot loading drive helped here too); three, they had more muted colors (Indigo, Ruby, Sage, Graphite, and Snow); four, had FireWire on most models; five, had the means to finally upgrade from a Power Mac 6100. :)

Yes, I know slot loading, convection cooling, and Firewire actually launched in 1999 with the DV models, but compared to the original iMac, or even the B, C, and D, revisions, those were still differentiating points. Also wanted to note, while Airport was a key upgrade for the 1999 and later models (such as my summer 2000 iMac), I decided to forego the $99ish upgrade price since my iMac was stationary and right next to the phone line (remember dial-up sharing on the early Airport Base stations?) and then later right next to the Ethernet switch for most of its life.

Summer 2000 Snow iMac DV SE was my first great Mac....sticking around until mid 2007ish? First for my use, then later for my mom. Quiet, reliable, reasonably well specced and reasonably future proof, ended up running Tiger 10.4 after first shipping with Mac OS 9. Firewire definitely came in handy down the road. However, there were pain point as well. Upgrading the hard drive was annoying, being stuck with the same screen size and resolution was annoying, not being able to add USB 2.0 was annoying (would it kill Apple to have offered even a single CardBus slot), video card did well with basic use, but it was stuck in place for 7 years and ended up being annoying by the end as well. CPU was actually decent for basic use and the 1GB RAM ceiling wasn't terrible, given that 2007 iMacs could only go up to 2 or 3GB. As I stated, reasonably future proof given the limitations inherent in an AIO, but only to the extent it never felt slow to me for basic computing (hard drive and RAM upgrade definitely went a long way here).

On the whole, the line continued down the path of too much compromise, designed to be hard to maintain, hard to upgrade, not particularly inexpensive, especially as the years have passed. For my own use case, too many negatives to outweigh the positive traits. There were the blips of possibility like the first iMac G5 that was very user serviceable, but as I stated, that was a blip, quickly forgotten by subsequent designs that have made the system more and more into an overpriced appliance.

These days, I would likely prefer an Intel NUC or Mac mini system paired with my own monitor (system mounted to the back of the display's VESA ports and it might as well be an AIO) and/or a portable tablet, laptop, or hybrid. Frankly, most of the world has gone that route too, non-AIO systems are by far the most common desktop systems in use and most regular users have long since moved to portables -- be it phone, tablet, hybrid, and/or or laptop. It is interesting Apple has never given up on the form factor. Kudos to them for trying, even if I disagree with their execution, I do agree there could be a compelling role for this design....I'm just not sure it's compelling enough to be the focal point of the entire desktop Mac lineup.

PS In addition to the Snow G3 iMac DV SE, I had a plethora of G3 iMacs collected over the years, from Rev A to Summer 2000 models. Also owned an early G5 iMac briefly (trouble prone, alas). My father and a client both had G4 iMacs and later clients had early Intel iMacs. While I didn't do much for personal computing on these models, I was familiar enough with them to recognize all the usual pain points.

PPS I continue to have a soft spot for Bondi Blue, never really liking the later lifesaver colors. I likewise did not enjoy the Blue Dalmation and Flower Power colors....yuck! Bondi is my sentimental favorite, followed by Graphite and Snow, with Sage, Ruby, and Indigo rounding out my favorite iMac colors.

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