Do you know your Sage from your Grape? How about your Bondi Blue from your Graphite? And who in their right mind could forget Flower Power or Blue Dalmatian?
If you know your Apple trivia, you’ll recognize all of those as “flavors” of the iconic iMac G3, which launched twenty years ago today. To celebrate the occasion, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan is showing off all 13 colors of the iconic “computer that saved Apple.”
It’s part of a pop-up exhibition of transparent objects, titled “Looking Through Things.” As the museum explains:
“Crystal-clear plastics were born out of scientific research during World War II and were swiftly co-opted for creative applications in fashion, our homes, and technology. A car’s windshield is clear because we need to see through it to keep us safe as we drive. But a see-through telephone? That invites us to look inside an object and question how it works.
From raincoats to everyday shoes, lightbulbs to paperweights, and accessories you’d find throughout your home, Looking Through Things showcases modern objects as well as artifacts dating back to the 19th century. This exhibit shows us that clearness can be a provocation, calling attention to the use of unexpected materials, applied to familiar forms.”
The computer that changed tech
As this description makes clear (no pun intended), the iMac G3 wasn’t the first piece of design to use transparent elements as an aesthetic choice. But it did change the way that computers looked at a time when most of them were still beige boxes. In Steve Jobs’ words, the candy colored iMac G3 looked “lickable.”
“The iMac G3 marked a significant moment in the personal computer revolution, convergence technology, and in the history of Apple as a company,” Kristen Gallerneaux, Curator of Communication & Information Technology at The Henry Ford, told Cult of Mac. “The G3 had a huge impact as a home computer streamlined to act as a “plug and play” access point to the internet. During the late-1990s and early-2000s, we saw an explosion in online culture including web-based shopping, the beginnings of social media, and overall, ravenous information consumption. The iMac G3 was an aesthetically pleasing portal to access this new world.”
If you’re in the Michigan area, we’d heartily recommend a visit to the Henry Ford Museum. In addition to this temporary display of iMacs, the museum has one of the few existing Apple-1 computers, which it bought at auction for a record $905,000 in 2014.