Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the original iMac unveiled by the late Steve Jobs. Not only did the new computer from Apple changed lives, but probably overhauled the entire computer industry.
Here is a quick peek into what this release meant two decades ago.
iMac: The Savior of a Dying Star
Apple hadn’t recorded any profits since 1995. So to say, the most valuable tech company we know of today was barely staying afloat in 1998. Apple was producing products by the numbers, but none were selling since there was no philosophy nor purpose behind any products they were producing.
In those dire times, acquiring another company wouldn’t have made much sense, but they targeted NeXT and bought it. Acquiring NeXT did more than just getting their hands on an Operating System that would later become OS X (now called macOS); it brought the visionary Steve Jobs back to Apple, back to the company he had founded and for which he was the last string of hope.
Jobs discontinued the plethora of products Apple was producing at the time and instead got the company to focus on a few products that would have the capacity to change the world. And sure enough, eight months into Jobs being back where he belonged came an unveiling at the very theatre where he had unveiled the first Macintosh in 1984, only this time around to create an even bigger bang; the first iMac.
This is what Steve Jobs had to say in the Press Release for iMac:
“We designed iMac to deliver the things consumers care about most—the excitement of the Internet and the simplicity of the Mac. iMac is next year’s computer for $1299; not last year’s computer for $999.
Today we brought romance and innovation back into the industry. iMac reminds everyone of what Apple stands for.”
Let’s hear an echo of the event from the legend himself in his iconic unveiling:
“It’s hard not to recognize the iMac’s lineage: the all-in-one case, the tiny footprint, even the integrated handle—all suggest the original Macintosh. But this is where the similarities end. Using translucent plastics of “ice” and “Bondi blue” (in homage to the Australian beach), Apple’s industrial-design group created a computer without a single straight line—even the keyboard components are curved. The case allows through just enough light to suggest the outlines of the iMac’s internal works without revealing too much.” – Andrew Gore for Macworld.
Laying the Pavement For Global Dominance
With 278,000 units sold in the first six weeks only, this product took Apple from the brink of extinction to a path of thriving success. Apple made the iMac, but I think it’s safe to say that the iMac made Apple in turn too. The nearly bankrupt company became profitable for the first time in years. And that was just the beginning leading to iPod, iPhone and iPad, all the products that used the same naming scheme and became even bigger successes on their own.
But iMac was the stepping stone that made Apple the tech giant it is today.
It is hard to figure out which factor of the iMac made it such a huge success. It had a bigger screen, serious lack of beige and it was ‘not ugly’ apart from high speed processor and connectivity. If you were one of the build-it-yourself type of a person for your computer, iMac was not intended for you. It had no support for floppy drives or legacy ports but if you wanted a powerful machine without the hassle of getting online in 1998, for $1,299 iMac was the computer of next year instead of computer of last year for $999.
- PowerPC G3 processor clocked at 233MHz
- 15-inch display with 1024×768 resolution
- Two USB ports and Ethernet with a built-in software modem
- 4GB hard drive
- 32MB of RAM, expandable to 128MB
- 24x CD-ROM drive
- Built-in stereo speakers with SRS sound
- Apple-designed USB keyboard and mouse
- Mac OS 8.1
Compared to the current iMac, those specs above may seem laughable, but they made the original iMac as revolutionary as the iPhone was in 2007 and as hip too.
It was in 2002 that the 1998 iMac received its first major makeover when a thin flat-panel display was fixed to a white semicircular base with a metal arm. This meant a significant change in the way this device looked and felt compared to earlier revisions that altered the iMac only partially.
Two years later in 2004, the main logic board, optical drive, and other components were moved to the back of the screen, expanding its width but getting rid of the semicircular base. The key difference was a bar that supported the screen instead of what used to be a part of the processing and a base for the machine.
Fast forward to 2014, and the iMac had 4K and 5K Retina displays. The iMac had become insanely powerful, but Apple wasn’t going to rest there. 2017 saw Apple release the most powerful iMac to date: the iMac Pro, which has completely changed the way we perceive the iMac discounting its design. While iMac was mainly a consumer product, with the iMac Pro, it has completed its transition to a workhorse for the professionals as well.
It remains to be seen where Apple under Tim Cook will take this revolutionary product. But while we await its next evolution, why not share your favorite iMac story with us in the comments below!
Head to Amazon to grab the latest deals and offers on descendants of the original iMac: