The Five Flavors 

Last time, we looked at the original iMac introduction that took place in 1998.

Just a year later, Apple discontinued the Bondi Blue iMac and replaced it with something far more colorful.

The 1999 iMacs came in five colors:

  • Lime
  • Grape
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerine

(Blueberry is very similar to the Bondi before it, but was a little richer and slightly less teal. It’s hard to tell them apart unless you have them next to each other.)

Five Flavor iMacs

Under the covers, these iMacs weren’t drastically different from the Bondi before them. The mysterious mezzanine slot was removed, as was the IRDA port. The processor was bumped to 266 MHz, but the rest of the specs matched.1

In short, this update was just a yearly speed bump, with a lot of flash.

Here’s a quote from Jobs’ keynote address:

In our consumer surveys, [color] is far more important than most of the mumbo-jumbo associated with buying a consumer computer. Megabytes, Megahertz, Gigabytes, people don’t care about that stuff. They want to trust us to give them a really great computer … They want to express themselves and pick the color [they] want.

This marks Apple’s first efforts to offer a wide range of options to its customers in terms of how a product looked. All five iMacs were the same; customers got to pick their color. This strategy would play out for years to come, in products like the iPod mini, iPod nano and even iPhone and now the MacBook.

Jobs — and Apple today — understand that people want their purchases to say something about them. It’s a huge reason the company’s brand equity is what it is. Carrying a gold iPhone or a blue iPod nano back in the day made a statement.

That’s what these iMacs introduced to the world for the first time. This generation of iMac is a lot of fun, and it was an important step for Apple to make.


  1. Like the Bondi’s silent “Rev. B” before this, the Five Flavors would get a small spec bump just a few months after going on sale. Starting in April 1999, these machines would ship with a 333 MHz G3 and a 6 GB hard drive. 

The iMac G3 family tree 

In August of 1998, Apple released the Bondi blue iMac. This computer left a bunch of stuff in the past, including beige plastic, ADB and serial ports, and the floppy drive.

It received a minor update a couple of months in, but the Revision A and B machines aren’t all that different.

In January 1999, the company introduced the Five Flavors. Essentially it was a faster 1998 iMac, but in new exciting colors: Blueberry, Lime, Tangerine, Strawberry and Grape. A speed bump took place in April 1999, bringing the machine to 333 MHz.

In the fall of 1999, things started getting more complicated. Apple switched to slot-loading optical drives and slightly revised the cases, making the computers a touch smaller and more transparent. At the bottom of the line was a USB-only Blueberry for 999 dollars. The Five Flavor colors made a comeback, gained FireWire ports and were renamed “iMac DV.” A new color — Graphite — shipped with FireWire and a 13 GB hard drive as the high-end model.

In July 2000, things got out of hand. A 799 dollar Indigo iMac shipped with no FireWire and no support for AirPort. The faster DV Summer 2000 added Ruby, while the faster-again DV+ was available in Indigo, Ruby and Sage. The DV SE sold in Graphite and Snow and came with an even faster processor and 30 GB hard drive.

February 2001 brought some much-needed sanity. The Early 2001 iMac included the ubiquitous Indigo, and introduced Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power. These patterns were molded into the plastic, and supposedly took Apple 18 months to perfect. The Early 2001 SE swapped Graphite for Indigo and came with an updated G3 and a faster GPU.

The last generation of iMac G3 was available in Indigo, Graphite and Snow. After the iMac G4 was introduced in early 2002, just the Snow remained, and stayed on sale all the way to March 2003.

There’s no doubt that the iMac G3 family tree is confusing in places, but I think Apple learned some valuable lessons here. As shown later in products like the iPod and now the MacBook, color matters to people. Many customers didn’t care so much about the difference between a 400 and 450 Mhz computer; they cared if it came in blue or if it came in green. Likewise, Apple learned that giving each of its good/better/best products a discrete name just led to confusion. If you buy a MacBook Air today, you just get an “MacBook Air.”

Square Dots →

Andy Hertzfeld has a nice little article on Folklore.org about the differences in the display technology used on the Lisa and the Mac

The square dots used on the 512×342 screen the Mac shipped with were a big break from the Lisa’s pixels, which were wider than they were tall. This made creating applications for the Mac’s GUI easier, as developers didn’t have to deal with accommodating the resolution disparity found on the Lisa.

That detail is where my blog got its name. And since it’s May 12, it seemed like a good time to bring it up.1


  1. Before you email me, I am aware that many people would write today’s date as 12/5/16 but I’m American, so today is 5/12 day in my heart. 

On iTunes Ping 

With rumors of an Apple Music refresh making the rounds, there’s been a fresh crop of iTunes Ping jokes.

So, let’s talk about Ping.

Introduction & History

Announced as part of iTunes 10 in September 2010, Ping was a music-oriented social network.1

Steve Jobs introducing Ping

Steve Jobs highlighted the features during the keynote:

Follow your favorite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to and downloading.

Ping was built into the sidebar in iTunes 10. Opening it would reveal a new UI within iTunes that looked like a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Posts from people you were following would appear, alongside Top 10 Charts built specifically from what people and musicians you were following were downloading from the iTunes Store. Concert information could be viewed as well if you were viewing an artist’s page; if you were viewing a friend’s page, you could see what concerts they had expressed interest in attending.

Ping was also included in a new pane on the right-hand side of the UI. This sidebar showed a mini feed of the recent activity of the people and musicians you were following. If the song that was currently playing was by an artist on Ping, their latest activity would load in at the top. Songs could be liked and shared as well.

Here’s a video of Jobs giving a demo of iTunes Ping:

(iTunes Ping showed up on the iPhone and iPod touch as well, but Jobs didn’t really show that off.)

Launch & Response

At first, it seemed to take off, according to Apple:

“One-third of the people who have downloaded iTunes 10 have joined Ping,“ said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. “As many more people download iTunes 10 in the coming weeks, we expect the Ping community to continue growing.”

However, problems soon arose. While it was included in the demo given by Apple, Facebook support was removed from Ping shorlty after launch. Here’s Kara Swisher:

When I asked Jobs about that, he said Apple had indeed held talks with Facebook about a variety of unspecified partnerships related to Ping, but the discussions had gone nowhere.

The reason, according to Jobs: Facebook wanted “onerous terms that we could not agree to.”

[…]
Jobs did not elaborate on those troublesome terms and also would not say if Ping would incorporate Facebook Connect–which would make it much easier to find friends to share music with.

“We could, I guess,” he shrugged.

Instead, users could search for friends via name or send them an email to invite them to join.

Ping was also flush with spam within the first several days of operation, as Eric Slivka wrote at MacRumors:

It’s been less than 24 hours since Apple released iTunes 10 and its integrated social networking functionality, Ping, but spammers and scammers are already starting to spread their messages via the service. The first major instance appears to be a “free iPhone” scam that has seen multiple accounts posting replies to entries from a number of the most popular music artists currently using Ping.

While it shouldn’t be a surprise that spammers would seize upon any opportunity to get their links in front of a large number of people, Ping’s linkage to the iTunes Store would at first glance appear to make things more difficult for spammers, who would need to create verified iTunes accounts before spamming.

Then there’s this:

Whoops.

Not a Bang, But a Whimper

All of this added up to a pretty bad first impression being left on iTunes users. I know I quickly learned to navigate around Ping when using iTunes. Mercifully, iTunes 10.1 — released 2 months after Ping launched — Apple included a toggle to disable Ping.

After that, the service stagnated quickly, and Apple quietly shuttered the service just two years after launch.

Legacy

iTunes Ping is the first example that is quoted when making comments that Apple just doesn’t understand social media. I think that’s a fair point, and I don’t think Apple’s made big strides in the right direction since flipping the switch on the Ping servers in 2012.

While Apple Music doesn’t include a full-fledged social network like Ping, the Connect tab in the app sure feels like Ping’s successor. It’s rumored to survive the impending changes to Apple Music, but I find that a little surprising, as it’s failed to gain steam.

Either way, the mashup of Beats, iTunes and the iOS Music app has resulted in something that’s pretty messy. Will Apple learn from this lesson, and from the lessons of Ping? Can the company let a music player just be a music player?


  1. This is also the event where the Apple TV went from a big silver box that only sorta worked to the 720p-capable black hockey puck form factor. Feels likes forever ago. 

‘It’s from a different planet; a planet with better designers’ 

On this day in 1998, Steve Jobs unveiled the iMac G3:

This announcement mirrors the original Macintosh introduction in several ways. Both times, Steve Jobs was unveiling a consumer machine for the masses with a friendly, all-in-one design. Both introductions took place in the Flint Center, and each greeted the audience with a cheerful “Hello” on the screen.

Jobs outlined the vision behind the computer in simple terms:

The excitement of the Internet. The simplicity of Macintosh.

The iMac was more than a mere computer; it was designed to be a vessel with which users could travel to the 21st century. The i in the name stood for several things:

  • Internet
  • Individual
  • Instruct
  • Inform
  • Inspire

Bondi iMac

Jobs described the machine as better than PCs in terms of speed, design, I/O and display size. The 233 MHz G3 was coupled with a 15-inch, 1024×768 CRT display. It shipped with a modem, Ethernet port and an IR port, but the real I/O story came in the form of USB and the lack of a floppy drive. Gone were the legacy Apple ports like ADB, and the only disc that the computer could read was a CD.

The lack of a floppy drive wasn’t mentioned in the keynote, but soon became a point of contention among analysts and even users, as was the dropping of legacy port in favor of USB.

Here’s Andrew Gore and Anita Epler for Macworld in May 1998:

Considering all these amenities, the most shocking part of the iMac isn’t what it offers, but what it lacks. The iMac has no floppy drive, which might be forgivable if there were a Zip drive or other removable-media option, but there isn’t.

And most dramatically, this new consumer offering has no SCSI port, no standard serial ports, and no ADB ports. Apple has opted to replace these familiar connections with USB, a high-speed serial architecture that has suffered from slow adoption on the Wintel platform despite its technical advantages. Currently, no USB devices exist for the Mac.

While it’s easy to smirk at this reporting now, it’s an important point. There were virtually no USB devices when the iMac was announced, and very few when it shipped a few months later. In the October 1998 edition of Macworld, just 28 USB devices were listed, and many of them were “coming soon.” Here’s Henry Bartman, closing his article about USB in that month’s magazine:

It seems like only yesterday that nobody had even heard of USB. But the Mac is moving to this new bus architecture, and the little iMac is leading the way. By this time next year, the Mac’s ADB and serial ports will be history, and USB (along with FireWire) will reign supreme.

That may seem like an overly optimistic prediction, considering the relative lack of available USB devices. But the iMac’s success-yes, this assumes that it will be successful-will cause hardware companies that have been waffling on the USB issue to finally take the plunge.

That’s basically what happened. Those users who bought iMacs sprung for new accessories, including USB floppy drives. In the June 1999 edition of Macworld, there was a 11-page spread highlighting USB devices on the market.

The iMac brought change not only to the tech Apple was shipping with Macs, of course. It changed Apple, and in a larger sense, the consumer electronics industry. Like the Macintosh before it, the iMac was Apple’s push in the future, bending the world to their vision of how computing should be. In 1998, that vision meant simple I/O and no floppy disks. That’s the world we live in today.

This machine would put an energy back into the Macintosh, and help pull Apple out of the nosedive it was in. It would bring new users to the platforms, help Apple regain ground in the education market, and lay the foundation for the computers and devices that would follow it.

Not bad for a weird little computer that only came in blue.

All 13 Colors of iMac 

About a month ago, I set out to find every color of iMac G3. At the time, I only owned one model — a Sage. Today, the family is complete.

I have a lot planned for these machines, but the first step was some documentation. I made a little video of my work:

Keep you eye out for more videos, some podcast episodes and more.

Here are some of the photos I took during this video. These and more can be downloaded here, in full resolution.

Bondi

Bondi Blue

Blueberry

Blueberry

Lime

Lime

Tangerine

Tangerine

Strawberry

Strawberry

Grape

Grape

Graphite

Graphite

Sage

Sage

Ruby

Ruby

Indigo

Indigo

Snow

Snow

Blue Dalmatian

Blue Dalmation

Flower Power

Flower Power

The Obvious GIF to Make

iMac GIF