The iMac celebrates 10 years, and a reflection on my own Mac experience

The iMac turns 10 years old today. Is it the product that saved Apple from failing, faltering, or becoming a radically different company than it is today (remember, this is pre iphone/ipod/mac-craze)? The late 90’s were dark days for Apple.

My family’s ‘first’ computer was an Apple IIe, (with a whopping 64KB of RAM) followed by my dad’s early 90’s, “Macintosh Classic II“, and ‘Color Classic‘.

In my elementary and middle school years, all of our school computers were Apple. Summer afternoons were spent with my siblings playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, some odd RPG, as well as some game where you manage a lemonade stand?!?. Things were about to change: In one swift blow, our high school converted to a lab of Windows machines (this is pre-internet by the way). It was awkward switching, but we didn’t have much choice.

Our home computers also migrated to Windows machines; both my parents still use Windows laptops, as does my brother (despite my nagging). My sister and I, being in the design world, had more exposure to Mac once we entered university. However, throughout that time, I continued to use Windows PCs while not in class. The Mac users were a select few with shiny toys but very little compatibility with the rest of us.

Before arriving in Indonesia, I blew $2400 on a top of the line Compaq laptop (which still survives, care of one of my coworkers). It was a great laptop, but I just didn’t find myself using it enough. My work computer was also a Windows machine up until only the spring of 2007 when I finally convinced the Powers-That-Be to allow an iMac into the system. (about a third of the staff has switched to Mac as well now).

As my passion for photography began taking root a few years ago, I felt a craving to return to Mac at home. I also was in need of a more professional monitor to edit my work. My first (modern) Mac was a 20″ iMac G5, purchased in 2005. Cost me over $2300 once I upgraded the RAM. It was a wonderful computer that solidified my belief in Mac once again. I never had a single problem with it. Realizing I needed a computer while on our travels, I picked up the first generation Macbook within weeks of its introduction in 2006 (which is now Novita’s). I sold the iMac in the name of portability, (with pings of regret) purchasing my current Macbook Pro in 2007. At work I use a 20″ iMac C2D (aluminum design); a truly beautiful machine. The Industrial Designer in me has nothing but praise for the current design. They’ve come a long way.

Having said this, I believe a bit of reflection is in order.

Macworld (current):

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that without the iMac, Apple would either be out of business or a vastly different company than the one we see today. And certainly the iMac was the first Apple product to truly bear the stamp of Steve Jobs, as well as designer Jonathan Ive, both of whom have spent the last decade driving Apple on to even more impressive creations.

Macworld May 7, 1998:

The Missing Links

Considering all these amenities, the most shocking part of the iMac isn’t what it offers, but what it lacks. The iMac has no floppy drive, which might be forgivable if there were a Zip drive or other removable-media option, but there isn’t.

And most dramatically, this new consumer offering has no SCSI port, no standard serial ports, and no ADB ports. Apple has opted to replace these familiar connections with USB, a high-speed serial architecture that has suffered from slow adoption on the Wintel platform despite its technical advantages (see the sidebar “USB: Ready for Prime Time?”). Currently, no USB devices exist for the Mac.

Will this latest chapter in the Macintosh saga be Apple’s success story at last? Only time will tell.

Am I Mac fanboy? Perhaps, but I’ve put in my time with Windows. But I also have a degree in design, so they speak to me more on that level than the sea of black and beige boxes, and have found that I’m much more creative and productive with the applications that are Mac specific.

Despite all this, ultimately, Macs are just another tool to wade through this Digital Dynasty; they just do it with a little more pizzazz.