The Switch to Intel →

This month in my Apple History column at iMore:

In his keynote address, Jobs addressed the challenges in front of Apple working with the PowerPC roadmap. Apple hadn’t been able to deliver the 3.0 GHz Power Mac G5 the company had promised:

We can envision some great products we want to build for you, but we don’t know how to build them with the future PowerPC roadmap.

(That’s a pretty sick Steve Jobs burn.)

Early 2001: The iMac G3 goes psychedelic 

At Macworld Tokyo 2001, Steve “Business Suit” Jobs showed off what would be the last two new iMac G3 designs: Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power.

Blue Dalmatian

Flower Power

Like Sage and Ruby before them, Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power were used for just one generation of iMac: the Early 2001 models.

According to Jobs, the new cases took 18 months to develop. They weren’t “colors,” but rather patterns molded “right into the plastic.” While some companies may have just used a decal, Apple wanted something special with these machines.

There’s no denying that the designs were a line in the sand. A lot of people liked them, but even today, people poke fun of them, too.

(I think it’s telling Apple returned to more sensible colors for the last set of iMacs, later in 2001.)

Blue Dalmatian features a pattern of white blobs on a blue and green background. It’s a little bit like a cartoon disco ball.

Flower Power is way out there. The pattern of simplistic flower shapes may have been colorful, but it soon picked up nasty nicknames comparing the design to moldy bread left in the refrigerator too long.

Both of these machines were a big departure from the previous colors used, and it feels a bit like Jobs (and Jony Ive, maybe) really wanted them to exist.

All “Early 2001” iMacs came with FireWire and iMovie, but Apple still shipped multiple lines of iMacs within this generation.

Our old friend Indigo sat at the base of the “iMac” line with a 400 MHz G3, a 10 GB hard drive and a $899 price tag.

The $1,199 mid-range Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power machines ran at 500 MHz with 20 GB of storage.

The high-end “iMac SE” (sold in Graphite, Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power) came with a new 600 MHz G3, 40 GB of storage and CD-RW optical drives for burning music. It sold for $1,499.

This was part of Apple’s Rip. Mix. Burn. campaign:

The Early 2001 iMacs were even featured in print and banner ads:

Rip Mix Dalmatian

With the Early 2001 iMacs, Apple didn’t simplify the line up all that much, but I think people were starting to wonder how long the iMac G3 would stick around.

At this point, the PowerMac, PowerBook and Cube were all running with G4 chipsets, leaving just the lower-cost iMac and iBook with the G3. The division made the overall product line a little easier to understand, but some wanted more power out of a consumer machine.

To be fair, Apple was still updating the internals of the iMac at this point. The G3s used in these models was markedly better than before, and the inclusion of CD-RW drives was a big deal. Remember, these machines shipped months before the iPod would be announced.

The G4 was the chip of the future, but the iMac would have one more round in the ring after these extra colorful machines.

History of ‘Mac OS’ 

Yesterday, OS X got renamed macOS to better match its mobile and TV-bound cousins. While I can get behind everything matching, lots of people have been rolling their eyes a little bit at the lowercase m.

The reason is a pretty good one. Before the days of Aqua and the Dock, the Mac operating system was named “Mac OS.” Some may think that name comes from the very beginning of the Macintosh, but it doesn’t.

“Mac OS” made its debut in version 7.6 of the Mac operating system, to help increase Apple’s visibility during the clone era. Clone makers couldn’t use the word Macintosh to market its products, so Apple’s branding was getting lost. Buying a Power Computing box running Mac OS 7.6 put the Mac’s name back in the conversation in a world of third-party hardware running Apple’s software.

Mac OS 7.6 Installer

Before Mac OS 7.6, Apple referred to its operating system as “System Software.” This terminology first appeared in February 1986, with System Software 1.0 In reality, this name was an umbrella term for System 3.1 and Finder 5.2.1

While it’s nice to think of “Mac OS” as the name of the classic operating system, it really didn’t last all that along. Mac OS 7.6 shipped in January 1997; Mac OS X shipped in September 2000 as a public beta.

  1. This naming scheme worked for many years, as Finder was a separate application from the system itself. For example, “System Software 2.0” was really System 3.3 and Finder 5.4. Today, this seems like madness. 

Summer 2000: The splintering iMac G3 line 

July 2000: The splintering iMac G3 line

On July 19, 2000, Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld New York. In this keynote, he unveiled updated PowerMac G4s, the G4 Cube and updated iMacs:

Jobs walked through the history of the iMac. Every 9 months or so, Apple had revised the iMac, and the time had come to do it once again.

This marked the iMac’s second birthday. In the two years since the first machine shipped, Apple had sold 3.7 million iMacs. Jobs boasted that an iMac sold at a rate of 211 an hour, or one every 18 seconds.

Jobs went on to share some numbers about iMac customers:

  • 30% were first-time computer buyers
  • 14% were switching from Windows
  • 89% were using their iMacs to browse the Internet

I think this goes to show that the iMac was working. It was helping stabilize Apple by bringing new people to the Mac, and it was helping put Internet access in homes and schools around the world.

Building on the iMac lineup introduced in October 1999, the “Summer 2000” iMacs would come in 4 models:

July 2000 iMacs

The iMac (Summer 2000) was sold in Indigo and priced at an all-time low of $799. To hit this price point, this iMac lacked FireWire and an AirPort card slot. It was slightly better than 1999’s entry-level iMac, shipping a 350 MHz G3, 64 MB of RAM and a 7.5 GB hard drive.

Indigo would become the new default color for the iMac. These later iMacs were all toned down and a little more professional looking1 than the bright Five Flavors that came before.

(They also came with a new keyboard and optical mouse, mercifully.)

As you can see, it’s a rich, dark blue color that contrasts nicely with the white translucent plastic that makes up the bottom part of the case. I’m a fan.

Indigo iMac G3

One rung up was the iMac DV (Summer 2000). Like the iMac DV before it, it came with FireWire ports, a 400 MHz G3 and a 10 GB hard drive and a bundled copy of iMovie.2

Ruby iMac G3

It came in Indigo and Ruby, and at $999, was Apple’s attempt to bring iMovie to everyone. However, unlike 1999’s iMac DV, it came with a CD-ROM drive instead of a DVD-ROM for cost savings.

Up next: the iMac DV+ came in Indigo, Ruby and Sage:

Sage iMac G3

This $1,299 iMac came with a 450 MHz G3 and a whopping 20 GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM drive, but still shipped with the standard 64 MB of RAM.

Sadly, this generation would be the only to feature Ruby and Sage. It’s a shame, as they are really nice looking colors. If you come across a Ruby or a Sage, it’s a Summer 2000 iMac.

At the top of the line, with a $1499 price tag was the iMac DV Special Edition (Summer 2000).

Jobs called this the “ultimate iMac,” and with a 500 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and 30 GB of disk space, it was certainly more powerful and more flexible than the machined before it. It cost $1,499, and like in 1999, this iMac came in Graphite, but also shipped in a new color called Snow:

Snow iMac G3

This new case would stick around until the very end of the iMac’s run, and offered just enough translucency to give a hint to what was beneath the plastic.

The Summer 2000 lineup would be the most complicated one Apple would offer. It was an expansion of the Good/Better/Best strategy announced 9 months before this event, and while the building of case colors between the iMac, DV and DV+ lines helped, I think this sort of thing was confusing to customers.

A lot of people didn’t care exactly what CPU came in their new home computer, they cared about the color. In hindsight, locking Sage or Snow to certain price points seems like an odd choice, but I think Apple was trying to pull people upstream to the more expensive models. I can’t blame Apple for that, but I think it emphasized specs over color in a way that didn’t resonate for many consumers.

  1. Other than Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian, naturally. 
  2. This event also marked the introduction of iMovie 2, but that’s a story for a different time. 

October 1999: iMac, iMac DV, iMac DV Special Edition 

Nine months after announcing the Five Flavors, Steve Jobs took the stage to rev the iMac G3s again. Here’s video from October 1999:

(For some context, this event also included a demo of Mac OS 9. Feel old now?)

These new iMacs all had three main new features: a slot-loading optical drive, Airport capability and a tweaked case that allowed for fanless operation.

Jobs opened the iMac pitch with the optical drive. Gone was the tray-loading drive, replaced with a slot-loading drive. This may seem odd now, but according to Walter Isaacson, it was important to Jobs. Here’s a story from the time leading up to the original iMac’s 1998 launch:

Jobs had not seen the final product before, and when he looked at it onstage he saw a button the front, under the display. He pushed it and the CD tray opened. “What the fuck is this?!?” he asked, though not as politely.


“Steve, this is exactly the drive I showed you when we talked about the components,” Rubinstein explained. “No, there was never a tray, just a slot,” Jobs insisted. Rubinstein didn’t back down. Job’s fury didn’t abate. “I almost started crying, because it was too late to do anything about it,” Jobs later recalled.

Beyond the optical drive, the October 1999 iMacs all shipped with slots for an optional $99 Airport card, bringing wireless networking to the iMac for the first time. Tray-loading iMac users were stuck with modems and Ethernet cables.

Next, Jobs highlighted the fact that this model of iMac shipped without a fan. The slot loading machines featured a slight case redesign that included a much larger area for ventilation around the handle, as you can see on my Grape and Indigo models:

Grape and Indigo iMacs

Compared to the tray-loading models, these computers were quieter and more power efficient.

Slot-loading drives, Airport and no fan were big improvements. Additionally, these machines were more transparent than before and came with built-in Harman Kardon speakers and came with Mac OS 8.5.1 out of the box.

I get the sense this is the iMac G3 Apple wanted to ship in 1998.

The 1998 iMac — available only in Blueberry — sold for just $999, the first Mac to ever ship with a sub-$1,000 price point since a handful of Macintosh LCs from the 1990s.1 It came with a 350 MHz G3 and a 6 GB hard drive.

There was, however, one more thing: the iMac DV. With this revision in October 1998, Apple split the iMac lineup for the first time into a “Good, Better, Best” arrangement:

October 1999 iMac lineup

The middle rung — dubbed the iMac DV — shipped with slightly revised Five Flavors colors,2 and a whole lot more for $1,299.

  • A faster 400 MHz G3
  • A larger 10 GB hard drive
  • VGA video out for mirroring
  • A DVD-ROM drive
  • iMovie
  • A pair of FireWire 400 ports

(The VGA port was stashed behind a removal panel on the back of the iMac. You could replace with a second panel that included an opening that exposed the port. Fiddly, but I guess Apple didn’t want to show that ugly port off to the world.)

Bringing FireWire to the iMac was a big deal. While this was before the Digital Hub strategy had a name, it gave regular consumers access digital camcorders.

This computer marked the introduction of the iMovie. Built on the back of QuickTime, it allowed users to import and edit videos right on the desktop. DVD burning was still a little ways off, but these movies could be exported to disk, back to the camcorder (and out to a VHD recorder) or published online.

“Desktop video,” Jobs said, “will be as big as desktop publishing.”

In his demo of iMovie, Jobs imported footage over Firewire to a Grape iMac DV. Once imported, he stitched them together with some transitions with just a few clicks.

There, was, one more one more thing, however: the iMac DV Special Edition.

Available only in a stunning new color called Graphite, this machine was an iMac DV with 128 MB of RAM and a 13 GB hard drive that sold for $1,499.

iMac DV Special Edition

Oh mama.

  1. Inflation, though. 
  2. For the pedants out there, I don’t own these shades of iMacs. My tray-loading Five Flavors are close enough to these that I didn’t think expanding from having 13 iMacs to 18 was worth it. 

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.