The NYT’s Take on the Original iMac »

This article got sent to me by several people, and I can’t pass up linking to it. In it, Peter Lewis responds to the then-new Bondi Blue iMac G3:

Apple was certainly “thinking different” when it created the iMac. The new personal computer, which goes on sale on Aug. 15, has already won popular acclaim for its creative design and its refreshing departure from the computer industry standard of boring beige boxes.

By rushing the iMac to market, Apple succeeded in getting on the radar screens of buyers before the next school year starts. There is a pent-up demand among owners of older Macintoshes for an affordable upgrade, and Apple is expected to sell all the iMacs it can make in coming months.

So far, so good…

Sources who say they have seen prototypes of other Apple computers report that the company may be thinking of adding translucence to desktop machines later this year. Although some reports say the new desktop systems will be smoky black, others describe the color as a translucent midnight blue, the same color Apple used in its new translucent Studio Display monitor.

Turns out, one of those was true.

Then there was the software:

The iMac also acts different from most computers. Like all current Macintoshes, it uses the Mac OS 8.1 operating system software, which is incompatible with more than 90 percent of all other computers. The Mac OS still sets the standard for ease of use and innovation, and it is arguably a superior choice for the consumer and education audience that Apple hopes to impress with the iMac.

It’s easy to forget the iMac shipped with Mac OS 8. That operating system feels further back in time to me than the iMac’s hardware.

(I wrote a whole book about this. You should read it.)

The iMac has a modest hard disk drive (four gigabytes, half the capacity of many new computers), but it lacks a built-in floppy disk drive or other removable media, like disks, for backing up files. A few customers may be able to work effectively without some way to transport data physically, by backing up files to a network server or to the Internet, but most of the consumers Apple is trying to appeal to live in a world where floppy disks are important.

Apple contends that the 1.44-megabyte, 3.5-inch disk drive is a thing of the past and that putting one in the iMac would have made it last year’s machine instead of next year’s.

Instead, Apple left a hole called a Universal Serial Bus port that allows a customer to attach storage devices to the iMac.

Lewis went on to quote a bunch of industry folks on the pros (but mostly cons) of this move.

This passage is why this link is getting passed around. It is easy to look back and mock this response. Of course, we think, it lacked a floppy drive. They were going out of style fast!

That turned out to be true, but wasn’t evident in 1998 to all. Apple was pushing the ball forward, breaking things as it went. That’s been the company’s modus operandi for years. I just have to look at the side of my new MacBook Pro to understand it today.

I think includes a lesson for those of us who review and talk about technology professionally. We shouldn’t hold our opinions too tightly. The move to USB was a little crazy for 1998’s world, but it made possible our world today. At the time, it was seen as a mistake by some, but that’s not how things panned out.