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.”