20 years ago, the iMac changed the world

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 2018
Sunday is the birthday for the first major consumer product of the second Steve Jobs era, one which changed the trajectory of Apple forever.

The original Bondi Blue iMac, introduced in 1998


On May 6, 1998 -- 20 years ago Sunday -- Steve Jobs unveiled the first iMac. The release came the week before that year's Worldwide Developers Conference.

"Today, I'm incredibly pleased to introduce iMac, our consumer product," Jobs said on stage that day. "iMac comes from the marriage of the excitement of the Internet with the simplicity of Macintosh. Even though this is a full-blooded Macintosh, we are targeting this for the #1 use consumers tell us they want a computer for, which is to get on the Internet, simply and fast." Jobs went on to tout the product, which was released right before the start of the following school year, to the education market.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted a portion of Jobs' presentation on Sunday to commemorate the iMac's anniversary.

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. pic.twitter.com/GbKno7YBHl

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook)

"We think iMac's gonna be a really big deal"





In the presentation, Jobs compared the iMac to the other computer products on the market at the time, which he derided as slow, with "crummy displays," and a lack of networking. "And," he said, "these things are ug-ly." Referring to the iMac, Jobs went on to state that "the back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys'."

Jobs even brought out Phil Schiller for a "showdown" between the iMac and the "hot new Compaq Presario 4540," which the Apple product won decisively.

Selling the iMac

The connectivity, ease of use, and look at the product were the subject of a series of TV commercials for the product, starring actor Jeff Goldblum:





The first iMac was priced at $1,299. It sported a G3 233-MHz processor, a 15-inch display and- perhaps most significantly- a colorful, curvy, translucent, all-in-one look that was hugely unconventional at the time. It was the first major project for Jony Ive, after he became Senior Vice President of Industrial Design in 1997.

"This one is incredibly sweet. This $1,299 product is faster than the fastest Pentium II you can buy. The market's never had a consumer computer this powerful and cool-looking," Jobs said in an interview the week of the launch with Lou Dobbs of the financial news network CNNFN. "We have been working hard on fashion, which is very important in the consumer market."





That sales job worked. The iMac was the best-selling computer of the 1998 holiday season.

Jobs also said in that Dobbs interview that "Apple will be working on strengthening its brand name," and compared Apple to Nike, Disney and Sony. And it appears to have worked: In 2017, Interbrand named Apple the year's most valuable brand, for the fifth year in a row.



Moving forward

The iMac design changed various times in the ensuing years. In 1999, Apple began offering the iMac in different colors. The G4 arrived in 2002, with a unique "dome" design, with the G3 discontinued that year.

The G5 followed in 2004 with yet another form factor -- a single slab with a chin.

The iMac G5, from 2004


The next big change to the line came with the arrival of the first Intel-based iMacs in 2006 that retained the form of the iMac G5. The first aluminum iMacs hit the market in 2007.

The alumninum iMac, from 2007


To this day, the name "iMac" is used by Apple for its thin, unibody desktop computers. The most recent innovations in the line have included the 5k iMac, which debuted in 2014, and the iMac Pro, which arrived last December.

At the movies

The keynote at which the iMac was introduced was dramatized in the 2015 movie "Steve Jobs," written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle, and adapted from Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Jobs.

However, that scene, like most of that film, took a significant amount of dramatic license, as enumerated at the time by Fast Company: Jobs did not reconcile with his daughter Lisa on the day of the iMac launch, nor did he get into a shouting match that day with Steve Wozniak, nor was Jobs a "multi-billionaire" as of 1998.

The Significance of the iMac

The iMac was, in many ways, the logical evolution of the original compact Macintosh that arrived in 1984. While somewhat radical in its design, the iMac represented something of a step forward design-wise.

In between, Apple had tried quite a few all-in-one Mac computers during Jobs' years away, including the 500 Series Performa line, and the ill-fated Macintosh TV. But the company wouldn't put it all together until the arrival of the iMac.

The iMac's introduction is an important moment in Apple history. It came a year after Jobs returned to Apple following the company's purchase of his company NeXT; at the time of the keynote he was still interim CEO. The computer's success helped reverse of a decade of struggles for the company, leading into the the company's huge run of growth after the turn of the millennium.

It also helped set a template for a long run of products, designed by Ive's team, that caught the eye with beautiful design. Apple touted the intro event as "Back on Track," and it certainly was, even though it would take several years for Apple to return to major profitability.
watto_cobra
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 360member
    An incredible product. I started using them at the art academy and back then they were pretty horrible for professional use (the puck mouse, the keyboard, the overall speed) but it was clear how awesome they were for consumer use and how redefining ‘home computer’ lead to a much more attractive, easier product. 

    I started using iMacs professionally when they became ‘aluminum’. It changed my perception of what a professional machine needed to be. Instead of the fastest graphics card, the easiest one to setup and the most elegant one to look at. Longer rendering times weren’t a problem if the screen was beautiful to look at and the system almost fail proof, needing no maintenance. In contrast to the clunky PC’s that had to deal with hours and hours of off-time and configuration. MacOS was truly the ‘brains’ of the beautiful iMac ‘body’. A walled garden with just enough balance between customization and protection for the end user.

    My company always heavily invested in iMacs, today having over 80 employees of which many use iMacs. Unfortunately, raw speed on the client (not networked) has become much important, especially VR, and we have slowly replaced many of the iMacs with ugly PC’s. Mac Pros where never an attractive consideration.

    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). I would like to see a greener iMac, where the monitor is still part of the same computer design-wise, but can be detached from the computer (and therefore replaced). No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.

    The iMac was as this article states truly revolutionary, and I hope the product will evolve for the years to come!
    macxpressracerhomie3TomE
  • Reply 2 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    This was my very first Mac. I was begging my parents for a new Mac and back then, Macs were expensive (go figure!)...like still $1,500-2,000+ so they weren't exactly affordable, especially considering that you needed to purchase a display as well. When this iMac came out I finally convinced my dad to get one since it was $1299 for the entire thing. They were awesome looking computers. Remember, back then everything was beige with a hint of beige. It was just so different looking. I can't say how much faster it was versus other computers because I didn't have any other computer. I don't remember it being slow though. We purchased it from MacWarehouse and they had a deal where it came with 32MB of RAM for free so it had a total of 64MB of RAM. We got the Imation SuperDisk Drive so I could use either a regular floppy or the LS120 SuperDisk that held I think it was 120MB which was pretty cool. I had an Apple StyleWriter II printer given to me by a friend which needed an adapter to convert it from the old Serial interface to USB (Yes, we had dongles back then too!). 

    My dad liked it so much that he wanted his own Mac so he bought another iMac which was the ones that had colors so I took the new iMac (Blueberry) and he took the old Bondi Blue one. I had this iMac for quite some time, used it with the Mac OS X Public Beta, then later Mac OS X (10.0-10.2) until I got a 17" 1GHz iMac G4 as a College graduation present. I used that for a couple of years until I purchased my own 1.8GHz 17" iMac G5 (original model) after I got my first job and had that until I got I think it was a PowerMac G5. I didn't trust the original iMac G5 as it always got extremely hot, even when doing the most basic tasks so I didn't keep that very long. 

    I've had a few other Macs since then but it was the original Bondi Blue iMac that started it all with the Mac! I still love the Mac to this day and wouldn't consider switching to anything else. I'm the Administrator of Apple Services at the school I work in and provide IT support for both Macs and Windows PC's, along with iOS devices. I was the one who started it all in the district I work in for Apple products in 2009. We were strictly a Windows shop and then we purchased some white MacBook's and an iMac lab and students loved them! So, we just kept them updated through the years with new purchases. Its nice and not as expensive as some think because when you're ready to upgrade, you can turn them back into Apple for a credit on your Apple account and that comes off the cost any new purchases. Its only the initial investment that is expensive. They seem to last forever too. Were STILL using those original 2009 white MacBook's as student spares that they can sign out and our oldest Mac lab are 2011 iMacs and they're still going strong. We've had very little issues with any of them with I think it's maybe 5 that needed to be sent back to Apple for repair and one iMac had a hard drive failure (I order all Macs today with flash storage).  

    I do wish Apple would redesign the iMac. Like @CheeseFreeze said, its basically had the same design since 2007. Yes, its had slightly different iterations of that design, but its still the same general design. I'd like to see Apple get rid of the chin and just do a floating display that is an edge to edge display. Maybe bring back some colors. I'm getting sick of just everything coming in silver (Aluminum). Apple can make these come in colors. They've done anodized aluminum a lot in the past and its worked out very well. To me, its getting to the point where silver is the new beige. 
    watto_cobraCheeseFreeze
  • Reply 3 of 27
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,564member
    The iMac was not what consumers were asking for, since we know Steve never consulted with consumers to figure out what consumers wanted. Steve was just smart enough to just know.
    racerhomie3jbdragon
  • Reply 4 of 27
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,564member
    An incredible product. I started using them at the art academy and back then they were pretty horrible for professional use (the puck mouse, the keyboard, the overall speed) but it was clear how awesome they were for consumer use and how redefining ‘home computer’ lead to a much more attractive, easier product. 

    I started using iMacs professionally when they became ‘aluminum’. It changed my perception of what a professional machine needed to be. Instead of the fastest graphics card, the easiest one to setup and the most elegant one to look at. Longer rendering times weren’t a problem if the screen was beautiful to look at and the system almost fail proof, needing no maintenance. In contrast to the clunky PC’s that had to deal with hours and hours of off-time and configuration. MacOS was truly the ‘brains’ of the beautiful iMac ‘body’. A walled garden with just enough balance between customization and protection for the end user.

    My company always heavily invested in iMacs, today having over 80 employees of which many use iMacs. Unfortunately, raw speed on the client (not networked) has become much important, especially VR, and we have slowly replaced many of the iMacs with ugly PC’s. Mac Pros where never an attractive consideration.

    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). I would like to see a greener iMac, where the monitor is still part of the same computer design-wise, but can be detached from the computer (and therefore replaced). No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.

    The iMac was as this article states truly revolutionary, and I hope the product will evolve for the years to come!
    You do know that Macs are the greenest computer on the market. You will be hard press to find something better. The only thing better is your brain and using rice paper to do your work, since you can eat the paper when you're done.
    racerhomie3lolliverStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). I would like to see a greener iMac, where the monitor is still part of the same computer design-wise, but can be detached from the computer (and therefore replaced). No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.

    The iMac was as this article states truly revolutionary, and I hope the product will evolve for the years to come!
    I don't really see Apple making the display detachable. Not only is that totally not the purpose of an iMac, it also introduces a major point of failure down the road. As Maestro said, iMacs are already the greenest computers on the market so I'm not sure how much better you can possibly get. These computers last for ages, not just a couple of years so I don't subscribe at all to the theme where iMacs are throwaway computers. They're no different from a regular computer in that respect and like I said, they last for years and years. 

    Also, if Apple were to make the display detachable, wouldn't that make things worse? I'd think you'd just have more influx of displays to be recycled or thrown out since you can just detach it and put a new one on. By the time you think you need a new display, its also time for a new computer as well. Today's screens are 4-5K screens. I'm sure 8K or better is coming down the road, but you will also need a far better computer to do things with that resolution too...something better than what is in an iMac today. 
    baconstanglolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 27
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member
    I had several of the bondi blue type iMacs, and over the years, my family has used dozens of iMacs. Never once have we been disappointed. A family member still has a 2004 era iMac in service running OSX 10.4. "It works just fine" he says. I'm typing this on a late 2009 iMac that is running high sierra. That's value.
    racerhomie3baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 27
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    A modern Raspberry Pi has more capability than those iMacs.  For $35.

    Where will we be in another decade?
  • Reply 8 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    nunzy said:
    A modern Raspberry Pi has more capability than those iMacs.  For $35.

    Where will we be in another decade?
    I know right! As I said in my post above...my iMac came with 32MB of RAM free for a total of 64MB which was a lot of RAM back then. And...233MHz! Its always kinda cool to look back and see how far we've come, especially if you also experienced it first hand too. 
    lollivernunzywatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,094member
    macxpress said:
    nunzy said:
    A modern Raspberry Pi has more capability than those iMacs.  For $35.

    Where will we be in another decade?
    I know right! As I said in my post above...my iMac came with 32MB of RAM free for a total of 64MB which was a lot of RAM back then. And...233MHz! Its always kinda cool to look back and see how far we've come, especially if you also experienced it first hand too. 
    It still does not have OSX or macOS
    lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member
    macxpress said:
    nunzy said:
    A modern Raspberry Pi has more capability than those iMacs.  For $35.

    Where will we be in another decade?
    I know right! As I said in my post above...my iMac came with 32MB of RAM free for a total of 64MB which was a lot of RAM back then. And...233MHz! Its always kinda cool to look back and see how far we've come, especially if you also experienced it first hand too. 
    It still does not have OSX or macOS
    No, but you could put Mac OS X on it. I ran Mac OS X on the Bondi Blue iMac and it would run "okay". I think my Bondi Blue iMac came with Mac OS 8.1 if I remember correctly. 
  • Reply 11 of 27
    shrave10shrave10 Posts: 30member
    You mean it was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Jobs taught the kids to play ... video games?
  • Reply 12 of 27
    Changed the world? Stretching it rather far there. I'd say 20 years ago the founding of Google had a bigger influence, the establishment of the Euro currency, and impeachment of Bill Clinton causing both parties to further deviate from middle gorund.
    baconstang
  • Reply 13 of 27
    racerhomie3racerhomie3 Posts: 1,094member
    Changed the world? Stretching it rather far there. I'd say 20 years ago the founding of Google had a bigger influence, the establishment of the Euro currency, and impeachment of Bill Clinton causing both parties to further deviate from middle gorund.
    Bill Clinton was never my president!
    donjuan
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    No more politics in any form on this thread. One and only warning.
    eightzerocurtis hannahfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 27
    KITAKITA Posts: 186member
    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). 

    No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.
    I agree regarding the chin, it needs to go.

    I like the minimal bezel design that companies like Microsoft and HP have gone with for their all-in-one computers.





    CheeseFreeze
  • Reply 16 of 27
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,564member
    KITA said:
    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). 

    No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.
    I agree regarding the chin, it needs to go.

    I like the minimal bezel design that companies like Microsoft and HP have gone with for their all-in-one computers.






    You do realize those are just like having a Mac Mini with monitor stuck on top.
    StrangeDaysfastasleepwatto_cobraracerhomie3
  • Reply 17 of 27
    KITAKITA Posts: 186member
    maestro64 said:
    KITA said:
    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). 

    No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.
    I agree regarding the chin, it needs to go.

    I like the minimal bezel design that companies like Microsoft and HP have gone with for their all-in-one computers.






    You do realize those are just like having a Mac Mini with monitor stuck on top.
    What does that have to do with the lack of a chin?

    If the PC in the base is what's distracting you, here's another all-in-one from Origin that has no chin or hardware in its base.



    edited May 2018
  • Reply 18 of 27
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,578member
    The iMac is due for a redesign, having had the same design since 2007 (with some evolutionary changes). Apple is playing it too safe and other brands have proven to be really good at industrial design as well (but never had the same reaction as Apple). I would like to see a greener iMac, where the monitor is still part of the same computer design-wise, but can be detached from the computer (and therefore replaced). No more chin but bevel-less. Something fresh and new.
    As the device approaches a slab of glass the design will become less and less novel. That isn’t a matter of Apple being lazy. The design is functional. As Ive has said many, many times, they don’t do change for the sake of change. If you’re bored read a book. 

    As for greener, this is an odd comment. They are already the greenest and most recyclable, and have the longest useful lifespan. My 2011 iMac still serves, and when I’m done I’ll give it to someone. When it breaks we’ll give it back to Apple to recycle. The display already can be replaced were it to have been broken, just bring it to the shop.
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 27
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,578member

    Changed the world? Stretching it rather far there.
    Only if you’re in denial. Apple’s design language changed the world of computers and consumer electronics. Everything in the ‘90s and ‘00s came in translucent plastic after the iMac. Who didn’t have a translucent alarm clock (remember what those were?)?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,861member

    Changed the world? Stretching it rather far there.
    Only if you’re in denial. Apple’s design language changed the world of computers and consumer electronics. Everything in the ‘90s and ‘00s came in translucent plastic after the iMac. Who didn’t have a translucent alarm clock (remember what those were?)?
    EVERYTHING came in translucent plastic! It also started at least to make PC manufacturers design their PC's from something else other than beige plastic. Dell started making black computers, Compaq made white with colored translucent plastic and the list goes on and on. Lets not forget the eMachines Bondi Blue iMac G3 clone which was quickly taken to court by Apple and made to discontinue.

    http://lowendmac.com/1999/the-emachines-eone/

    As time when on, it made PC manufacturers think more and more about the design of their products. It wasn't just phones others copied Apple on...
    edited May 2018 watto_cobra
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