Why the iMac was so revolutionary | Cult of Mac

Why the iMac was so revolutionary


Will the iMac design ever be this exciting again? The original iMac G3.
The original iMac was more affordable than its predecessors. Much more exciting, too!
Photo: Apple

Twenty-six years ago, everyone knew personal computers were important, but the machines were too intimidating for non-technical people. Then, 25 years ago today, the original iMac changed that forever.

The first time I encountered an iMac was totally transformative. My core beliefs of what was possible on a computer were deeply shaken. It instilled in me a lifelong love for the Mac.

What made the iMac revolutionary?

Through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, computers were increasingly common in offices, banks, newsrooms and schools. But very few people knew or understood what they would want to do with a computer at home.

Advertising campaigns even 20 years into the advent of the personal computer still focused on explaining the basics of what a home computer was for.

The internet changed that. Whereas most things a computer could do were understood by the general public as “this is a typewriter, except complicated and expensive,” or “this is a financial ledger, except complicated and expensive” and “this plays video games, except complicated and expensive,” the internet was something brand-new and exciting.

And the iMac was built for the internet.

Make the personal computer personal

iMac design: The iMac G3 was a bit fatter than model than today's models.
A radical departure from the beige boxes of yore.
Photo: Apple

For the computing world, the iMac changed everything. While everyone points to the Apple’s “Rainbow” commercial that came later, the first iMac ads focused entirely on how simple it was to get online with Apple’s new all-in-one computer.

Whereas other computers were monstrous ugly boxes, the Bondi Blue iMac was gorgeous. It looked inviting enough to display proudly in a living room.

And while companies like Dell and HP were perpetually trying to upsell you on their ever-more expensive models, Apple was bold enough to tell you that the iMac was enough for you.

The iMac was love at first sight

iMacs G3s in a computer lab
This viral image isn’t too far off, but I don’t think my school had as many colors.
Photo: Reddit

I vividly remember my first encounter with an iMac in the fall of 2003. At home, I used an Intel Pentium PC of some beige variety — it doesn’t matter which one, they were all the same.

At school, in a special computer lab on the second floor, there were rows upon rows of iMac G3s sitting at tables. They were already several years old by this point, but to my eyes, you could have convinced me they were five years from the future.

This was also my first encounter with Mac OS X. Previously, I had only used Windows 98 and 2000. The glossy icons, the animations, the pinstripes, the bright blue menus and the sheer beauty of Apple’s operating system left a permanent mark on my brain.

Here, Microsoft Office wasn’t represented by crummy, boring pixel art. It was a flashy icon that grew when I hovered the mouse over it and bounced when I clicked on it.

The iMac felt alive in a way no PC ever had.

The iMac: Gateway drug into the Mac world

A whole bunch of Macs and ugly old PCs sitting on a table
My personal computers over the years: A Pentium II PC, 2006 Acer TravelMate, 2010 Sony VAIO, 2006 Mac mini, 2008 MacBook Pro, 2015 MacBook Pro, 2023 Mac mini.
Photo: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

I became perpetually jealous of the Mac. On my crummy laptop running Windows XP, I installed WindowBlinds with this Mac Aqua theme to make it feel a little more like home.

It wasn’t until early 2009 that I got a Mac of my own, a hand-me-down 2006 Mac mini with an Intel Core Solo chip. I bounced back and forth between PC and Mac, as my cheap machines were in varying states of barely functional, but I was always happier on a Mac. Even when it was an objectively slower computer.

For about 11 years, I’ve been on a Mac full-time. And I haven’t looked back.


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