Today in Apple history: iMac G4 gets super-size screen

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The iMac G4 brings a
The iMac G4 brings a "breathtaking" giant screen to desktops everywhere.
Photo: Apple

July 17 Today in Apple history July 17, 2002: Apple ships a new super-sized iMac G4, offering a 17-inch widescreen LCD display that becomes the envy of most computer users at the time.

“The best consumer desktop just got even better,” says Steve Jobs of Apple’s new all-in-one computer. “Having this gorgeous 17-inch flat screen floating in mid-air right in front of you is simply breathtaking. There’s nothing like it in the PC world.” He wasn’t wrong!

iMac G4: A natural progression for Apple

iMac G4
One of Jony Ive’s greatest designs.
Photo: Apple

The iMac G4 is probably my favorite iMac in Apple history. As Jobs noted, it looked totally unlike every other computer available at the time. While it was very much its own thing, it linked many ideas revolving around Apple at the time.

For starters, it represented a midpoint between the eye-catching, cutesy design of the iMac G3 and iBook and the more austere minimalism of Apple’s later devices.

It also echoed the Luxo lamp (Pixar’s mascot), while tying back to Apple’s hippy, nature-inspired roots with a design based on a sunflower.

In Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, he tells the story of Jobs and Apple design chief Jony Ive struggling to come up with a new look for their next-gen iMac. The pair wound up in Jobs’ garden, where they came up with the idea of a computer with a movable head that could be angled like a sunflower reaching for the sun.

They achieved this using a cantilevered, fully poseable metal arm to support the iMac G4 screen. Contrary to fears at the time, they did it without risking the whole thing falling over.

How powerful was the iMac G4 17-inch?

In terms of specs, the 17-inch iMac G4 came with an 800 MHz PowerPC G4 processor, NVIDIA GeForce4 MX graphics, a SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs, and an 80GB hard drive (which Apple proudly boasted could “hold more than six hours of video, 15,000 songs and 73,000 digital photos”).

The 17-inch iMac G4 started at $1,999 ($2,700 in 2017 terms). A few years later, Apple upped the screen size one more time by introducing a 20-inch iMac G4. Did you own this generation of iMac? Leave your comments below.

  • Furutan

    This product spawned a truly excellent commercial – fun, simple, imaginative, and with a touch of attitude, plus a version of cuteness that crosses gender boundaries.
    From a marketing perspective, this is a perfect example of seeing an object for what it does, for what makes it stand apart from every competing product, and for anthropomorphization – turning a piece of technology into a living thing with a personality. This should be part of any filmmaking curriculum.

  • bIg hIlL

    I bought a used 19″ PC monitor in 2003, so theres somewhat of an exaggeration regarding Apple’s ‘super-sized 17″‘.

    • JR

      Apple released a 30″ monitor in 2003, and already had a 23″ monitor out for while. It wasn’t the biggest monitor, but for the iMac line it was “super-sized”.

  • Ken Fager

    The 17″ iMac was my first Macintosh. It was a refurbished model which should have never been sold. The paint on the back of the monitor interior was chipped off, and there is a microbubble in the dome. But I still have it, it still works, and I love it.