The iMac is a series of all-in-one computers launched by Apple in 1998. Through four different incarnations
(as of late 2009), the iMac has taken a page from Apple's early playbook: an all-inclusive machine, with
everything necessary to work straight out of the box. Each generation of iMac is as functional as it is
aesthetically pleasing, not to mention extremely user friendly. It was the first major product launch upon
Steve Job's return to Apple in 1997.
A 1998 Swedish ad: One click 'til Internet
The "I" in iMac originally stood for Internet, as connecting online was starting to become commonplace by
the late 1990s. The original "gum drop" iMac featured a colorful translucent plastic case, and was certainly
unique, as it didn't look like any computer that came before it (or since, for that matter). It also featured a
tray-loading CD drive, which was quickly superseded by a slot-loading case. The second-generation iMac,
the iMac G4, scored yet more props for Apple, as it featured a flat-panel display mounted on a white half
sphere. The third generation iMac resembled a flat-screen display that actually housed the CPU within, as
did the similar fourth-generation version.
The original iMac v.2: slot loading
The iMac was squarely aimed at the home user market, a demographic that Apple shrewdly predicted would
be buying computers in record numbers. It also was a major coup for Apple in the design department, as it
was a 180-degree departure from a typical computer, Not only did Apple hit a home run with both the idea
and the delivery of the iMac, it also ushered in the second era of functionality paired with aesthetics,
something that had been absent from Apple products for a few years.
The second-generation: iMac G4
As of late 2009, there have been four distinct generations of the iMac, each identified by the design as well
as the processor contained within. The first, the plastic colorful model, contained a G3 processor (ranging
from 233MHz to 700MHz) and a 15" display. Early models featured a tray-loading CD drive, but this was
eventually updated to a slot-loading format. The second-generation models featured three different display
sizes and processor speeds ranging from 700MHz to 1.25GHz. The third version of the iMac had a white
plastic construction, and a G5 processor that ranged from 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz. The Intel-based iMac's
appearance is extremely similar to the G5 version, except that the case is graphite, not white.
The third-generation: iMac G5
Although each different generation of iMac is extremely dissimilar, there are features that are common
throughout its lineage. This includes the all-in-one, plug-and-play formula that Apple had made famous
more than a decade earlier with the color screen and user-friendly Internet setup. While the first two
generations didn't contain wireless cards (tray-loading models were incompatible with wireless, slot-loading
and second-generation iMacs could easily be upgraded), it has become a standard feature for all subsequent
models. In addition, iMacs contained standard USB and FireWire ports (however, early versions didn't
include FireWire capabilities) along with the ability to add a second display were supported from the outset.
One feature that every iMac omitted was a 3.5" floppy drive, although third-party companies offered
external USB floppy drives.
An Intel-based iMac, circa mid-2009
Now that the first-generation of iMacs are more than a decade old, their limitations have become apparent.
The largest problem these machines have is the inability to upgrade any components easily; even adding
additional RAM to tray-loading iMacs involves a nerve-racking opening of the case, something not for the
faint of heart. Once a component failed in any of the first two generations, the machine was pretty much
shot, as replacing the bad part usually involved spending more money than the computer was worth.
Another problem with these early models is that the liquid cooling system (which was used in lieu of fans)
seemed to degenerate as time went by, and tended to give these computers a limited shelf life before some
failure necessitated the purchase of a new computer.
All In One Desktop