The iMac is the Mac I still think of as being the Mac, and this week it turns a quarter of a century old.
Apple’s iMac was the second Mac I bought and was my first proper Mac.
It all started with a MacBook Air which was good enough to get me hooked. But next up came a 2012 iMac and that was it…from that day to 2022 I solely worked on iMacs.
But as it’s a rather special week for iMac as it turns twenty-five, I thought we should look back at its history, look at what it’s achieved for Apple and then look to the future.
A bold step
The iMac was first shown to us and introduced to the world on 6th May 1998 at the same space, The Flint Centre for the Performing Arts at De Anza College. that the original Macintosh 128K was launched. iMac was the first major product to be released after Steve Jobs return to the company.
Jobs had looked to slim down and simplify Apple’s product range and the iMac fitted perfectly into his vision. That vision was to create a consumer-level Mac that was simple to use, easy to get online with and relatively inexpensive.
That first iconic teardrop-shaped G3 was designed by Jobs right-hand man Jony Ive. At the meeting where Jobs was introduced as the new CEO, Ive was struck by Steve Jobs obsession with making industrial design a core part of Apple’s comeback plan – don’t forget, Apple had been in massive financial trouble before Steve’s return.
That original iMac was a massive and bold departure from what had gone before. Gone were the traditional, boring beige body and floppy disk drives and in their place came sleek, funky colours, USB ports and CD-ROMs. Although at the time this was a risky move, it was proven the right course to take. A legend had been born.
This Mac revived Apple’s fortunes and has since gone on to sell over five million units.
Originally, Jobs had intended this Mac to be called MacMan. Ken Segall who worked at the L.A. agency that had been hired to create the campaign for this new Mac pitched the name iMac to Jobs. At first, he wasn’t impressed, but on the second pitch accepted the suggested name – with the ‘I’ of course standing for internet.
The budget for the campaign was $100 million and Jeff Goldblum was hired as the voice talent to narrate the ads in which he jokingly asked if other companies had been in computer thinking jail! Other highlights of that campaign were midnight launch events and golden tickets that were hidden in a few Macs. If you were lucky enough to find one, you could go on a factory tour of the Apple facility.
The legacy starts
That first G3 went on sale three months later on 15th August 1998 and lasted until 2002 when it was replaced by the G4.
The G4 had another radical look and redesign with all components now in a dome-shaped base with the screen being fully articulated via a chrome arm. A few years later iMac began its transition to the shape we associate with it now. With the G5 all the workings were now behind the screen and this was the first Mac to use Intel inside. That transition was completed in 2007 when the white plastic body gave way to an anodised aluminium casing that was to last the test of time for over twenty years.
My first iMac was one of those shaped and styled Macs and you can see it behind me in all my videos and for that matter that first MacBook Air as well – I’m an Apple hoarder, what can I say?
It was the seventh iteration in late 2012 which saw it getting a new display panel and slightly revised shape. It was thinner at the edge but had the same maximum depth. And it was now, with this body shape that we got our hands on a 27-inch iMac for the first time, until then of course, they’d only been available as a 21.5-inch model.
A winning formula
They continued to sell well, and Apple continued to make meaningful updates to the ever-popular desktop Mac. The 27-inch model was given a 5K Retina display and the smaller model a 4K Retina display.
The Pro model launched in 2017 was powered by a Xeon processor and came with fast SSD storage as standard.
And that was kind of the iconic era done and dusted – that is until the spring of 2021 when iMac was given yet another new lease of life this time with Apple silicon.
To mark the new release, and to further cement Jobs original intentions for this to be a consumer-level Mac, it shipped with a choice of seven colours as a nod back to its heritage and also got a larger 24-inch 4.5K Retina panel.
Life left in iMac
The 24-inch iMac was one of the first models to receive the M1 Apple silicon chip, as the company transitioned away from Intel to using their homegrown alternative.
The use of Apple silicon was a huge win for iMac – it meant it could now be much slimmer, considerably quieter and much, much more powerful.
Since its release though, it has received no further updates which is a little unusual as most Macs tend to be on a two-year refresh cycle. We’ve been through the pandemic, and massive supply chain issues since it was first released, but the good news is, I think we can finally expect something new for iMac sometime this year.
With Apple’s M3 chip likely to be unveiled in the fall, it’s more than likely that the 24-inch iMac may well be one of the first lucky recipients of it. The 27-inch iMac was quietly removed by Apple one year after the M1 iMac was released, and since, the 24-inch model has been the only one available.
With the old iMac Pro effectively being replaced by the Mac Studio and Studio Display, it’s still unclear whether we’ll ever see the return of a large M-powered 27-inch iMac. The crazy thing is, it’s still one of the prettiest ranges of Macs ever to have been sold.
In all I have owned three iMacs and I still have two of them! That’s not only testimony to how good they are, but also the affinity I have with them.
It has only been in the last few weeks that I have stopped using my 2015 5K iMac daily, but it will be going nowhere. I simply love it.
Somehow, iMac sort of sums up what Macs are to me. MacBooks and MacBook Airs are all well and good, but to me and many others, iMac is the quintessential Mac. The iMac that started life as Apple’s fun all-in-one computer, which was right for practically everyone grew into something special.
The iMac and the iPhone possibly saved Apple from financial ruin and helped them go on to become what they are today.
Design’s like iMac don’t come along very often – tactile, beautiful and iconic – Happy 25th Birthday iMac.
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