The colorful history of the iMac


In April, Apple launched preorders for a new collection of new iMacs, available in seven bright colors with accessories to match. It’s a homage to the first iMac, which Steve Jobs introduced to the world May 6, 1998. The iMac went on sale August 15, 1998, and was the best-selling computer by Christmas.

The iMac would bring computer users the “excitement of the internet with the simplicity of Macintosh,” Jobs promised, and that it did. It also was Jobs’ major product launch after his 1997 return to Apple following Apple’s acquisition of his company NeXT. The iMac started the now-ubiquitous line of “i” products.

Origins of the iMac

Initial marketing in the form of commercials narrated by actor Jeff Goldblum emphasized its simplicity, which, like the original Macintosh, featured an all-in-one computer with a 15-inch CRT display. The rounded, brightly colored yet translucent box was eye-catching (though some described it as “bulbous”). The unit nixed a floppy disk drive for CD-ROM and was the first Mac to include USB ports.

The original iMac was available in “Bondi blue,” named after Australian surfing hotspot Bondi Beach—and a nod to the ease with which users could surf the internet using the iMac. Just plug in an ethernet cord and go! By 1999, consumers had five color choices.

The iMac was named by in-house ad exec Ken Segall, who had also worked with Jobs at NeXT. Segall pitched several names to Jobs as they searched for the right moniker to convey their new product’s revolutionary approach to computing. It wasn’t boxy or beige—it was fun, but still powerful.

Jobs was set on the idea of “MacMan,” which is comical to think about today. Initially, the best review Jobs could give “iMac” was he “didn’t hate it,” but eventually, the name stuck—and catapulted Apple into product lines that would make it the world’s most valuable company as of 2020.

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