|Release date||August 15, 1998|
|Discontinued||March 18, 2003|
|Predecessor||Power Macintosh G3 All-In-One|
The iMac G3, originally released as the iMac, is a series of Macintosh personal computers developed by Apple Computer under the tenure of Apple's interim CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs after his return to the financially troubled company.
The iMac was a huge success for Apple, revitalizing the company and influencing competitors' product designs. It played a role in abandoning legacy technologies like the floppy disk, serial ports, and Apple Desktop Bus in favor of Universal Serial Bus. The product line was updated throughout 1998 until 2001 with new technology and colors, eventually being replaced by the iMac G4 and eMac.
See also: Apple Inc. history, 1990–1997
In the late 1990s, computer maker Apple was in a precarious financial position. By late 1997, Apple was selling just 1.8 million Macs per year, down from 4.5 million two years earlier. What sales Apple did make were cannibalized by licensed Mac systems that undercut Apple's own computers on price and performance. Apple pulled out of the low-cost computer market entirely, unable to compete on price and getting products to consumers rapidly. In December 1996, Apple purchased computer maker NeXT, with NeXT founder Steve Jobs returning to the company he had once cofounded and then been ousted from. Along with Jobs came Next's operating system, NextStep, which would become the foundation for Apple's next-generation operating system Mac OS X. While Jobs returned to Apple only as an "advisor", Apple's board fired CEO Gil Amelio on July 9, 1997, and Jobs replaced him as interim CEO.
Upon his return to Apple, Jobs drastically reduced the company's product offerings and organizational division, returning Apple to profitability by cost-cutting. But the company still needed new hit products. Jobs envisioned winnowing down Apple's bloated computer offerings to a simple 2x2 grid: two professional products (a laptop and desktop) and a consumer laptop and desktop. What became the iMac would slot into the consumer desktop position. Jobs wanted an inexpensive computer that would prioritize easy internet connectivity. The engineering and design teams had less than a year to deliver a shipping product.
Apple industrial design director Robert Brunner left Apple in 1996, intending for the 29-year-old Jony Ive to take his place. Ive inherited a design award-winning team within an Apple marred by financial disfunction. Dispirited with Apple's leadership, Ive was soon also thinking of leaving the company. At the meeting announcing Jobs' new role as CEO, he addressed the assembled staff and asked them to tell him what was wrong with Apple, interjecting before anyone could respond, "It's the products. The products suck! There's no sex in them anymore." Ive was struck by Jobs' insistence that Apple would return to its roots of great products, and his focus on making industrial design a core part of Apple's comeback strategy. Ive and Jobs quickly developed a rapport, and decided to keep Apple's industrial design team under Ive intact amid wider reorganizations and cuts.
Initially, Jobs intended for the new consumer desktop to be a "network computer"—a cheap, low-powered terminal without disk drives that used the internet to connect to remote servers. Ive's team was given Jobs' specifications for the new product in September 1997: it should be an all-in-one computer, in a distinctive presentation, for a selling price of around US$1200. The design team tried to decide who the audience for the computer would be, and what sorts of objects conveyed the emotions they wanted the new product to instill; they developed sketches collaboratively, with designer Satzger coming up with an egg-shaped drawing based on previous work on Thomson Consumer Electronics televisions. Ive and the rest of the team decided to make the egg shape the main design focus, even after Jobs initially rejected the look. Ive defended the design as playful and fun, and eventually won Jobs over, who took to carrying a foamcore model of the computer around the Apple campus to show it off.
When discussing the idea of a machine that elicited positive emotions, the designers mentioned colorful candy dispensers. Materials tests with solid plastics looked cheap, and someone suggested making the case transparent instead. Translucent hardware design was not original among Apple's products. In 1997, Apple released the Power Macintosh 8600 and 9600, beige tower computers that had translucent green latches. The LaserWriter 8500 and eMate 300 featured even more extensive use of translucent colored plastics. Former Apple senior designer Thomas Meyerhoffer described the eMate's use of plastics as a way to make the product more accessible and stand out from the crowd. To Ive, the translucency "came across as cheeky", but it meant the internals would have to be designed to look good as well. Inspiration came from whatever translucent items the designers brought in; one such item was a piece of greenish-blue beach glass. This "Bondi blue" color would be the color Jobs would select for the first computer.
The team radically overhauled their design process to meet the tight deadlines. In the past, they had sent two-dimensional blueprints or hand-drawn sketches to toolmakers to create the molds, a laborious process that could take months. Instead, Apple relied on computer-assisted design, using the 3D modeling program Alias Wavefront to sculpt designs, with CNC milling machines or primitive 3D printers used to create physical mockups. Apple's product designers wrote software to allow the Wavefront 3D models to be brought into Unigraphics, a program used in aerospace design. This allowed the engineers to compare 3D models of the computer's components with the casing, speeding up the time it took to figure out a workable marriage of external and internal elements.
Jobs began to sour on the network computer concept, as similar products struggled in the market, and ordered the project to recalibrate as a real computer with optical and disk drives.
The iMac was the first computer to exclusively offer USB ports as standard, including as the connector for its new keyboard and mouse, thus abandoning previous Macintosh peripheral connections, such as the ADB, SCSI and GeoPort serial ports.
Components such as the front-mounted IrDA port and the tray-loading CD-ROM drive were borrowed from Apple's laptop line, though the IrDA was removed in the Revision C onwards. Although the iMac did not officially have an expansion slot, the first versions (Revision A and B) had a slot dubbed the "mezzanine slot". It was only for internal use by Apple, although a few third-party expansion cards were released for it, such as a 3dfx Voodoo II video card upgrade from Micro Conversions
The keyboard and mouse were redesigned for the iMac with translucent plastics and a Bondi Blue trim.
In early 1998, representatives from the advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day were given an introduction to the iMac, at that point code-named "C1". Creative director Ken Segall recalled that the first impressions of the agency was that the product might be too shocking to be successful. Jobs was proud to show off Apple's work, insisting that "the back of our computer looks better than the front of [our competitors'] computers." The product, however, still did not have a final name; Jobs informed Segall that the internal name was "MacMan" (contributed by Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller) and to see if they could come up with something better, with the following stipulations: it had to contain "Mac", it had to evoke the product's focus on easy internet connectivity, it shouldn't sound too toy-like, and it should not sound portable. TBWA spent a week developing other names (among them "MiniMac"). Segall's pick was "iMac"; it was short, it said the product was a Macintosh computer, and the i prefix suggested the internet.  Jobs disliked all of them, and gave the agency another week to generate more possibilities. At the next presentation, Segall once again ended with iMac. Jobs reported that he no longer hated the iMac name, but still preferred MacMan. Though Segall thought he had failed, he learned the next day Jobs had workshopped the name to other employees and gotten a positive response; the iMac name stuck.
The iMac was continually updated after its initial release. Aside from increasing specifications (processor speed, video RAM and hard-disk capacity), Apple replaced Bondi Blue with new colors. Throughout its lifespan, the iMac was released in a total of thirteen colors.
The iMac was unveiled by Steve Jobs in May 1998 and began shipping the iMac G3 on August 15, 1998. It was supported by a $100 million advertising campaign that stressed the iMac's ease-of-use, internet connectivity, and striking contrast from competitor's products. Actor Jeff Goldblum narrated television ads that rhetorically asked if computer companies had been in "thinking jail" for only making beige products.
The first iteration of the iMac G3 featured a 15-inch (13.8-inch viewable) CRT display, 233 MHz processor, ATI Rage IIc graphics, 4 GB hard drive, tray-loading CD-ROM drive, two USB ports, a 56 kbit/s modem, built-in Ethernet, infrared port, built-in stereo speakers, and two headphone ports. It came exclusively in a translucent "Bondi Blue"-colored plastic. On October 17, the iMac was updated with ATI Rage Pro graphics. This updated model maintained its predecessor's original price of $1,299.
The third revision to the iMac lineup came in 1999, just six months after the release of the original model. These models came in five different colors—blueberry, strawberry, tangerine, grape, and lime. Internally, they featured a faster processor, and a larger-capacity hard drive. Removed were the IrDA port and mezzanine slot.
On October 5, 1999, Apple released a new series of revised machines. Whereas the original iMac models focused on connecting consumers to the internet, the new iMac line focused on the emerging digital video (DV) market. The new models were similar in appearance to the previous models, but came in a slightly shorter enclosure; the steel casing shrouding many of the components in the previous model was also removed, and the colors were lighter, with clearer plastics. Instead of a tray-loading optical drive, the new models featured slot-loading drives. They also added a rear door so users could easily add additional RAM. Apple partnered with Harmon Kardon to design the iMac's new internal speakers; Harmon Kardon also produced a separate subwoofer, the iSub, powered by USB. The new iMacs had no fan; the components were cooled via convection, with hot air exhausted through vents around the computer's top handle.
Three new models were offered, with some colors and features restricted to certain models. The cheapest model was available only in one color, and shipped with more RAM, a better graphics chipset, and larger hard drive. The iMac DV came in five colors, and shipped with the video editing software iMovie. It included two FireWire ports, a faster processor, larger hard drive, and DVD-ROM optical drive. The iMac DV Special Edition came in a new "graphite" color and shipped with more RAM, a larger hard drive. The iMac DV models also included a VGA video-out port for mirroring the iMac's display to another monitor.
On July 19, 2000, Apple reduced the price of the entry-level iMac to US$799 (equivalent to US$1,257 in 2021). Hardware changes were minimal; the AirPort card slot was removed (for the base configuration), the USB Mouse was replaced with an Apple Pro Mouse, the ATI Rage 128 VR graphics were upgraded to an ATI Rage 128 Pro version, and it was made available in a darker shade of blue called Indigo, replacing Blueberry. The iMac DV was reduced to US$999 (equivalent to US$1,572 in 2021), dispensing with the DVD-ROM replaced by a CD-ROM drive, and was available in Indigo and Ruby. At the former price point of the iMac DV, the iMac DV+ was introduced, sporting faster processor and larger hard drive than its predecessor in Indigo, Ruby, and the exclusive Sage. The iMac DV Special Edition remained at the same price but gained a 500 MHz processor, 30 GB hard drive, and was available in Graphite and the exclusive Snow.
On February 22, 2001, Apple consolidated its configurations to three. The iMac DV was renamed the iMac and made the entry-level configuration; it was available only in Indigo at US$899 (equivalent to US$1,376 in 2021). A second entry-level configuration was introduced with a 500 MHz processor, new ATI Rage 128 Ultra graphics, and 20 GB hard drive in Indigo, along with two patterns: Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian that were molded into the plastic exterior. The iMac DV Special Edition was renamed iMac Special Edition and was available in Graphite and the two new patterns, with a faster processor, double the RAM, and a 40 GB hard drive at the same US$1,499 price.
The final revision, released July 18, 2001, kept the three model line now with a 500, 600, or 700 MHz processor, available in Indigo, Graphite, and Snow. Following the introduction of the faster iMac G4 in January 2002, the 500 MHz Snow and both of the 700 MHz models were discontinued. The 500 MHz Indigo and 600 MHz Graphite models were subsequently discontinued later in 2002, leaving only the 600 MHz Snow model available for sale until March 2003.
The iMac G3 was well-received, being considered one of Apple's most memorable products of its era. It was praised for its wide variety in color, and it was also praised for its translucent design and aerodynamic shape.
Macworld's Andrew Gore predicted that the iMac G3 might be as important as the original Macintosh for shifting the computing paradigm, and that Apple's "Think Different" marketing was not just empty talk.
Mac users criticized the lack of legacy ports and the slow G3 processor.
A major complaint with the iMac were the original mouse and keyboard; reviewers found that they were small and hard to use comfortably. The shape and ease-of-use of the mouse was derisively compared to a hockey puck, and its cable frequently considered too short.
The iMac G3 sold 278,000 units in its first six weeks of sale, growing to 800,000 units after 20 weeks. It was the top-selling desktop computer in US stores for its first three months. The quarter the iMac shipped was the first time since late 1995 that Mac sales had improved year-over-year, and saw the Mac grow its worldwide market share from 3 percent to 5 percent. Apple went from losing $878 million in 1997, to making its first profit in three years in 1998.
The iMac continued to be a strong seller for Apple as it returned to profitability.
The iMac G3 became a computing icon; Paul Atkinson wrote that while the original Macintosh had made a huge impact on computing, it had not affected how computers looked, and for decades personal computers were defined by unimaginative beige boxes. The iMac, in contrast, did not affect how consumers used computers, but its design changed the idea of what computers could look like. Apple defined itself in opposition to its competitors, who rushed to produce computers that followed the design language.
Further information: Notable litigation of Apple Inc.#Apple v. eMachines, #appleimac.com and iMac (Apple silicon)
Apple protected the distinctive iMac design with legal action against competing computer makers who attempted to imitate the iMac, such as eMachines' eOne. Some manufacturers added translucent plastics to existing designs after the iMac G3's huge success.
It helped introduce USB to the masses and usher the decline of the floppy drive.
The product's name would influence a host of Apple's later product launches, from iPods and iLife to the iPhone, and for a time defined Apple's consumer-focused product lines. The computer was so successful in the education market that Apple created a G4-powered successor, the eMac.
Technology journalist Jason Snell credited the iMac with being a massive hit that bouyed Apple while it released a modern operating system and refreshed the rest of the Mac lineup, as well as keeping Apple at the forefront of the emerging digital audio and video trends. Macworld noted the iMac's not only saved Apple financially, but in proving Apple could still produce exciting and innovative products.
By the early 2000s, multicolored, translucent plastic designs had become a common look among consumer designs. Apple would follow the candy-colored iMac G3 with the flat-panel, white iMac G4 in 2002. Apple's desktop lineup would remain relatively monochrome in the following years; the 2021 release of Apple silicon-based iMacs sold in seven colors were considered to harken back to the iMac's colorful roots.
|Model||iMac (233 MHz)||iMac (233 MHz)||iMac (266 MHz)||iMac (333 MHz)|
|Release date||August 15, 1998||October 26, 1998||January 5, 1999||April 15, 1999|
|Color(s)||Bondi Blue||Blueberry Grape Tangerine Lime Strawberry|
|Processor||233 MHz G3||266 MHz G3||333 MHz G3|
|Cache||32 KB of L1 Cache and 512 KB of L2 backside cache|
|Memory||Two SO-DIMM slots: 32 MB–128 MB PC100 SDRAM|
|Graphics||ATI Rage IIc with 2 MB of SGRAM||ATI Rage Pro with 6 MB of SGRAM|
|Hard drive||4 GB||6 GB|
|Connectivity||10/100 BASE-T Ethernet|
|4 Mbit/s IrDA||—|
|Peripherals||2x USB 1.1|
2x Headphone mini-jacks
Analog audio input mini-jack
Built-in stereo speakers
|Original Operating System||Mac OS 8.1 (initial release) or Mac OS 8.5||Mac OS 8.5.1|
|Weight||40 lb (17.25 kg)|
|Dimensions||15.8 x 15.2 x 17.6 inch (40.1 x 38.6 x 44.7 cm)|
|Model||iMac (Fall 1999)||iMac (Summer 2000)||iMac (Winter 2001)||iMac (Summer 2001)|
|Release date||October 5, 1999||July 19, 2000||February 22, 2001||July 18, 2001
|Colors||Blueberry Grape Tangerine Lime Strawberry Graphite (SE)||Indigo Ruby Sage Graphite Snow (SE)||Indigo (regular) Graphite (SE) Blue Dalmatian Flower Power (SE and regular)||Indigo (regular) Graphite Snow (SE and regular)|
350 or 400 MHz G3
350, 400, 450, or 500 MHz G3
400, 500, or 600 MHz G3
500, 600, or 700 MHz G3
|Cache||64 KB of L1 Cache and 512 KB of L2 Backside Cache (2:5)||64 KB of L1 Cache. 512 KB of L2 Backside Cache (2:5) or 256 KB of L2 Cache (1:1)||64 KB of L1 Cache and 256 KB of L2 Cache (1:1)|
|Memory||Two slots of PC100 SDRAM
64 MB or 128 MB
|Two slots of PC100 SDRAM|
64 MB, 128 MB or 256 MB
|Graphics||ATI Rage 128 VR with 8 MB of SDRAM||ATI Rage 128 Pro with 8 MB of SDRAM||ATI Rage 128 Pro with 8 MB of SDRAM
ATI Rage 128 Ultra with 16 MB of SDRAM
|ATI Rage 128 Ultra with 16 MB of SDRAM|
|Hard drive||6 GB, 10 GB or 13 GB||7 GB, 10 GB, 20 GB or 30 GB||10 GB, 20 GB, 30 GB or 40 GB||20 GB, 40 GB or 60 GB|
|24x CD-ROM, 4x DVD-ROM, or 8x4x24x CD-RW|
|Connectivity||10/100 BASE-T Ethernet|
56k V.90 modem
|Peripherals||2x USB 1.1|
2x FireWire 400
2x Headphone mini-jacks
Analog audio input mini-jack
Built-in stereo speakers
|Original Operating System||Mac OS 8.6||Mac OS 9.0.4||Mac OS 9.1||Mac OS 9.1 and Mac OS X 10.0.4|
|Weight||34.7 lb (15.7 kg)|
|Dimensions||15.0 x 15.0 x 17.1 inch (38.1 x 38.1 x 43.5 cm)|