Today in Apple history: Hippie-themed iMacs fuel Cupertino flashback

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The Flower Power iMac G3 and Blue Dalmatian iMac G3 were two of the wackier Macs in history.
These were two of the wackier Macs in history.
Photo: Apple

February 22: Today in Apple history February 22, 2001: The iMac Special Edition, sporting custom Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian designs, puts a wacky face on the computer that saved Apple’s bacon at the turn of the century.

A far cry from the super-serious, aluminum-heavy industrial design that will come to define Apple, these colorfully patterned iMacs are some of the most irreverent computers Cupertino ever dreamed up. (C’mon, when was a real Dalmatian blue?)

Under the consciously tacky exterior hummed a pretty darn great iMac G3, though.

Pick your color, make your choice

The Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian iMacs were the culmination of an ultra-colorful range that included the original Bondi Blue iMac G3, as well as Blueberry, Strawberry, Lime, Tangerine, Grape, Graphite, Indigo, Ruby, Sage and Snow options.

Coming at a time when your typical PC was an ugly beige or gray box, the colorful iMac range proved revolutionary. It tapped into the same spirit of individualism that made “Think Different” work as a catch phrase. The idea was that anyone could choose a Mac that best represented their personality.

Goofy marketing? Sure. A brilliant move? Definitely.

Flower Power iMac: A nod to Apple’s past

In some ways, the hippie-patterned iMacs served as a fun nod to Apple’s past, as well as pop culture at the time. The 1990s and early 2000s brimmed with nostalgia for the ’60s, much as ’80s retro rules today.

Steve Jobs always described himself, accurately or not, as heavily inspired by ’60s counterculture — even if it might be hard to imagine him planting a Flower Power Mac in his office.

Regular Mac fans reacted about how you would expect. Not everyone was a fan of the new computers, but that wasn’t the point. With an affordable $1,199 to $1,499 price tag and decent mid-level specs (500 or 600 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 64 or 128 MB RAM, 256 KB Level 2 cache, CD-RW drive and 15-inch monitor), these Mac definitely appealed to the masses.

Not everyone wanted a wacky patterned Mac, but some people loved them.

iMac G3: A game-changer

As I’ve written before in “Today in Apple history,” the iMac G3 was a game-changer for Apple. In fact, you can make the argument that it’s the second most important product Apple ever made, after the breakthrough Apple II in 1977. The first real collaboration between Jobs and Jony Ive, the G3 became a massive commercial hit at a time when Apple really needed one.

Had the iMac G3 sunk like a stone, there might never have been an iPod, iPhone, iPad or any of the other breakthrough Apple products that followed over the next decade.

The Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian iMacs ultimately didn’t hang around for long. Apple discontinued them in July, making way for the iMac G4 — a personal favorite of mine — which shipped in 2002.

What was your favorite color (or pattern) iMac G3? Did you own one back in the day? Leave your comments below.