The iMac was Apple's savior in the 1990s

Originally published at: The iMac was Apple's savior in the 1990s | Boing Boing


They really did shake things up and brought Apple back into vogue. I still like the colors, too.

These things were nightmarish to work on, from a tech’s perspective.

A lesson they then applied to almost everything else they made after. Best hire I ever made was a Mac tech who could work on almost anything. Best career move I ever made was getting out of tech support so I wouldn’t have to support them myself. :slight_smile:


Me, still remembering the Torx screwdriver and special spudger to open a Mac classic case:

Sir Jony wasn’t the first to put the “walled” in “Mac walled garden.”




I remember having to extract zip disks with a paper clip every time the mac crashed which was quite often. They didn’t want an eject button ruining the design. They were crap.


Floppies, too. I think every physical media player on a computer since has had an eject hole override.

For the Mac, it was probably software nannying: you can’t have the disk back until it was done with it. I will never forget the pain of installing from floppies and the little fawee ka CHUNK sound as the eject motor barfed out Disk 2 because it needed Disk 3 (of 10 :skull:)


For all of the hype around Apple making everything user proof and perfect, our first one was bricked by an update. Apparently we did something out of order (which shouldn’t be possible, right?) and that thing instantly turned into a paperweight. We took it to the Apple store and the only thing we got was sad faces.

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People don’t realize just how unpopular Macs were in the late 90s/early 2000s.

At my college they required every freshman to have a laptop and offered some nice discounts on similarly priced Dell or Apple Powerbook options. In fall 1999 or 2000 (I forget which year it was) only two out of over 1000 freshmen chose the Mac. Even though IMO the Powerbook was a significantly better machine (I worked for campus IT at the time, and we had FAR fewer issues with the Macs than with the Windows computers).

Now at that same college I’ll bet 75% of freshmen (maybe more) use Macs.


The iMac contradicted every rule of the PC industry of the mid-'90s. Instead of being modular, it was a self-contained unit (with a built-in handle!).

I used to sell computers in the mid-late 90s. We built and sold custom PCs. I used to joke that the handle on the iMac was so you could toss it all the way to the back of the dumpster when it became obsolete.

I COULD have bought a Mac then, as I was in a design program and the labs all had Macs. And they were better on paper for graphics.

But I was able to build comparable PCs for less. Maybe with benchmarks it still lagged behind, but it ran faster than the ones in the lab and I felt justified with my purchase. Pentium 200!


I started out on custom PCs in the early 90s, but then was blown away by the plug-n-play abilities of Macs in the mid-90s when my high school newspaper got a truckload of old cast-off Macs from a local corporation. They all had built-in soundcards! And networking them for file sharing and shared printing was as simple as plugging in a cheap Phonenet adapter and daisy chaining them with RJ-11 cables. At one point I hooked up four monitors to one old Mac II just because I could. It was sooooo much easier and more fool-proof than the PCs.

Of course it was almost always possible to build a comparable PC for cheaper. And there were WAY more hardware and software options for PCs. But the late 90s there were a lot of reasons to justify the slightly higher price tags of Macs. I loved my PowerMac 6300 in college and my iBook in grad school.

Over the years I think the usability differences have grown smaller, while the price difference has grown larger. Despite my fervent Mac evangelism in the late 90s and early 2000s, I haven’t bought a Mac since 2008. My main computer is a custom desktop I built myself for about $500 (with multiple internal hard drives–something that you can’t do except on the highest-end Macs), and my wife and kids all have Lenovo T-series laptops that I bought used on eBay for about $200-300 each. There’s no way I could get a comparable Mac laptop for that price.


That’s fair. And their stock hardware, especially for graphics, was quite good! There is a reason they were preferred among Adobe users. It could definately be a pain to get hardware to work on Windows 95, though it got a little better with Windows 98. The whole “Windows/DOS” thing further complicated it.

I had a Macbook at work with a Windows image on it. While different, I did quite like it. The form factor was sleek and battery life good. Though the fact that you had to hang a half dozen dongles off of it when connecting to your monitors and workstation at the office was absurd.

I can’t bag on the general performance of current Mac products, but I don’t like their Walled Garden approach to everything. They want you to be part of the whole ecosystem, not just the hardware but the software and services.

On the flip side, PCs have an abundance of choices that are cludged together and often cause issues you have to figure out. And back in the day - I had the time and knowledge to fix those.

In short, I have my preference, but I am not a zealot bagging on the other side.


I’ve always been amazed at the continued ability of Apple to make bad design choice after bad design choice, many (if not most) of them being directly user-hostile, and yet people keep on buying. It’s astounding.


That crap was why I didn’t deal with Macs ever again until the OS X era when things were more stable. I had an important paper on a floppy, and that disk got corrupted somehow. That happens, and on a PC I would’ve tried to recover it.

On the Mac, every time after you tried to use the disk, the Mac would crash. No way to even think about recovering it easily.

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This was in 2010, I miss the light up logo


There were some awesome stickers that took advantage of that light. Snow White holding the apple, Iron Man with a light up arc reactor.

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And yet, those design choices are, for the most part, followed by the entire industry.

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My first machine in the fall semester of '89, a Mac SE (with the 1.4MB Superpdrive! 1MB RAM and 20MB HD) also had a handle. It was convenient since I would put it in the very back of my VW Bug (right over the hot, aircooled engine) and drive to/from school on holidays and summers.

Years later, I bought one of these colorful iMacs for my dad so he could dial into his bank account a few times a day to check his balance. I’m glad I did, with him being an old electronics tech guy, he loved to tinker around with it. I think the machine is still at my mom’s house.

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They truly were a pain to work on. I felt pretty accomplished when I was able to first install new RAM, and later a new hard drive. My hands didn’t like me after getting squished and nicked up doing both of those things.

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