Last Wednesday Jobs himself received a more thunderous thumbs-up at the announcement of Apple Computer’s successor to its own hall-of-fame classic, the original Macintosh: a machine designed for consumers dubbed the iMac (only Apple would dare to lowercase the “I” in Internet).
Do you remember the original iMac? I do. I never owned one personally, but it was an important computer for those of us of a certain age. Yesterday was the 25-year anniversary of its availability.
I grew up as an Apple fanboy. Unashamedly bleeding in six colors. Leading up to 1996, the Apple I loved was dying — quickly. But after a reverse acquisition, co-founder Steve Jobs was back at the helm of Apple and all seemed right with the world. Indeed, today Apple is the most valuable company in the world and unlikely to disappear any time soon, all of it rooted in that 1996 deal. Digression: it’s absolutely bonkers to think about it, but every Apple product today (2023) runs software that can trace its roots back to NeXT. Who in 1985 could have imagined a future where their code was at the heart of computers, cell phones, TVs, speakers, and watches 30 years in the future?
None of that future would come to pass though if Apple couldn’t get their shit together and make some money. The first step in that journey to profitability was the iMac. This was Steve Jobs at his best. The iMac project was a Hail Mary; milk the existing platform for as much short-term profit as possible while we try to figure out the next thing. It was basically existing hardware, boiled down to a cheaper and more forward-looking version (no legacy ports, no floppy drive), and existing software. Easy to build, highly profitable, the iMac was a lifeline for a company that desperately needed one.
The iMac had just become available when I entered college in the fall of 1998, and by October they were everywhere on campus. An immediate hit. Today, Apple is the most valuable company in the world (and a company that I still adore) and it all started with that little Bondi Blue plastic shell.