In 1998, the original iMac was unlike any other personal computer on the market.
Tech is attractive, or at least it can be, owing in large part to Steve Jobs and his iMac, which debuted 24 years ago this month.
In 1998, your alternatives for home and workplace computers were drab and drab. The personal computer market was dominated by so-called “white box” PCs. Multiple detachable storage slots, a grill to enable air flow over the enormous motherboards and massive CRT displays sitting on top were standard features on these always-white or always-beige rectangles. With the help of the keyboard and the mouse, I was able to complete my task.
Not only was the iMac’s unconventional design necessary to change things up in a stagnant industry, but it also saved Apple from the trash.
Around the time of the introduction of the first iMac, Steve Jobs returned to Apple. According to Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs, the goal was to establish a company “ready to use computer and monitor out of the box, an all-in-one product. To make a statement, it needed to have an eye-catching design.”
The iMac achieved all of this and more with its rounded, no-sharp-corners design, candy-colored transparent back, dual speakers facing front, compact keyboard, and flawlessly spherical mouse.
When the iMac first came out in 1998, it was impossible to confuse it with any other brand of Windows PC on the market at the time.
In addition to being an eye-catching product, Apple’s iMac was also a statement of purpose. Almost fifteen years before, Apple had done exactly the same thing: Think Differently, putting aside the familiar and familiar in favour of something new, exciting, and extraordinary.
However, it’s to Apple and Steve Jobs’ credit that the original iMac wasn’t simply a pretty packaging. Only the PowerPC CPU (developed in partnership with IBM and Motorola) was included, as well as an internal hard drive. 3.5-inch floppy drives were standard on all desktop computers and many laptops at the time. Apple removed it and replaced it with a CD-ROM drive exclusively. When the iMac was released, the USB port was still in its infancy (no previous Mac had one).
The 56K V.90 modem introduced by Apple was a connection option so new that many ISPs were unable to connect to it. It even included a handle, a throwback to the original Macintosh, so you could carry the computer about.
Steve Jobs intended for the new iMac to be a consumer computer that could be used by anybody, regardless of their level of expertise. However, sales were quick, and I can recall seeing them everywhere in the workplace in 1999. That’s really what a design team I worked with at the time requested.
Few items have the impact of the iMac in igniting a new generation of technology users. It allowed us to become enthused about the aesthetics and feel of technology as well as its capabilities. In contrast, Apple was one of the first to grasp the significance of the trend.
In the years to come, Apple would release a new iconic product or design every few years. The iMac’s influence may be seen in the iBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. That is not to say that every product resembled the iMac. They failed to do so. This commitment to creating products that evoke strong emotions was evident even in the subsequent iMac with an LCD display.
Allowing form to completely overrule function has been toned down a little by Apple. Apple’s current designs are characterised by their simplicity as well as their aesthetic appeal. It’s possible to argue that the first iMac was a little overdesigned, but the Mac Studio is almost a blank slate.
That’s not the case, though. Like a vehicle moving down the road, every Apple product I’ve ever seen is engineered to create a reaction. Seeing, remembering, and forming an opinion about something as it’s zipping by at 70 mph may be difficult.
Until the introduction of the first iMac, our laptops would remain unattractive, boxy extensions of their desktop cousins. Tablets may feature squared-off corners. Instead than being smooth, shiny slabs, our phones may seem more like…well, like phones.
Because of the original Mac, every piece of technology we use now is influenced by its precedent-setting design. There were a few who appeared to learn from the 1984 offering, but nothing has changed till 1998 when the industry finally caught on.