Apple Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Steve Jobs Unveiling the iMac

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the late Steve Jobs introducing the iMac, in what has become a defining moment in Apple's storied history. Apple CEO Tim Cook commemorated the occasion on Twitter today.


"This is iMac," said Jobs, who had returned to the helm of Apple as interim CEO just eight months prior, after being ousted from the company twelve years earlier. A large crowd erupted with applause at the Flint Center, the same theater where Jobs unveiled the original Macintosh back in 1984.

hello again imac
The excitement centered upon the fact that the iMac didn't look anything like other desktop PCs of the time. This wasn't a typical boxy monitor-and-tower in dull beige. This was an all-in-one machine with curvy, translucent plastic, first in bondi blue, and later in several other colors of the rainbow.

imac colors
Jobs was as charismatic as always on stage:

This is iMac. The whole thing is translucent. You can see into it. It's so cool. We've got stereo speakers on the front. We've got infrared right up here. We've got the CD-ROM drive right in the middle. We've got dual stereo headphone jacks. We've got the coolest mouse on the planet right here. All of the connectors are inside one beautiful little door here—the Ethernet, the USB stuff. Around the back, we've got a really great handle here. The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys, by the way.

iMac was all about getting everyday people connected to the internet. In fact, the letter I in iMac stood for internet, according to Ken Segall, the creative director who came up with the name for the computer. It also stood for individual, instruct, inform, and inspire, according to Apple's presentation.

More importantly, the iMac was a turning point for Apple, a company that had lost its direction by the mid-1990s. Apple was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, had a bloated product lineup with over a dozen Macintosh models, and seemed to lack a clear plan forward. That is, until Jobs stepped in.

Jobs aimed to simplify Apple's product lineup with a four-quadrant product matrix, with one desktop computer and one portable computer for consumers and professionals respectively. iMac filled the consumer-desktop quadrant.

Jobs in Apple's press release for the iMac:

We designed iMac to deliver the things consumers care about most—the excitement of the Internet and the simplicity of the Mac. iMac is next year's computer for $1299; not last year's computer for $999.

Today we brought romance and innovation back into the industry. iMac reminds everyone of what Apple stands for.

The original iMac pioneered many industry firsts such as USB, FireWire, and quiet fan-less operation, and while the removal of the floppy drive and legacy ports was controversial, the computer ultimately pushed the industry forward.

The original iMac's tech specs:

  • PowerPC G3 processor clocked at 233MHz

  • 15-inch display with 1,024×768 resolution

  • Two USB ports and Ethernet with a built-in software modem

  • 4GB hard drive

  • 32MB of RAM, expandable to 128MB

  • 24x CD-ROM drive

  • Built-in stereo speakers with SRS sound

  • Apple-designed USB keyboard and mouse

  • Mac OS 8.1

The strategy was effective, as the iMac kickstarted Apple's return to profitability, just months after it flirted with potential bankruptcy. iMac sales topped 278,000 units in the first six weeks, and in October 1998, Apple reported earnings of $106 million in its fourth quarter, contributing to its first profitable year since 1995.

The naming scheme lived on with the iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010, products that led Apple to become the world's most valuable company.

The success of the iMac was due in part to a significant marketing campaign developed by ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. The ads, both in print and video form, focused on the iMac's design and the simplicity of both setting it up and connecting to the internet. A few of the spots featured actor Jeff Goldblum.


A sampling of taglines from the campaign:

  • Yum.

  • Sorry, no beige.

  • Chic. Not geek.

  • High-technicolor.

  • No artificial colors.

  • The rebirth of cool.

  • The most colorful way to the Internet.

  • Family vehicles for the information superhighway.

  • The thrill of surfing. The agony of choosing a color.

  • The most dramatically new Macintosh since the original.

In the two decades since, the iMac has undergone several revisions, keeping up with rapid technological advancements. Over those years, Apple's attention to both design and function hasn't wavered.

In 2002, the iMac received its first significant redesign, with a thin flat-panel display affixed to a white semicircular base with a cantilevered metal arm. In 2004, Apple integrated the main logic board, optical drive, and other components behind the display, allowing for a thinner aluminum stand.

imac timeline
In 2007, Apple ditched white plastic and gave the iMac an aluminum enclosure backed by black plastic. A model with a complete aluminum unibody enclosure was released in 2009, and slimmed down in 2012. In 2014, the iMac gained 4K and 5K Retina displays. And, in 2017, the powerful iMac Pro was released.

It is 1998, though, that will always be remembered as the year Apple started a new chapter of success. Happy birthday to the iMac.

Related Roundup: iMac
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Buy Now)
Related Forum: iMac

Top Rated Comments

Naraxus Avatar
41 months ago
"had a bloated product lineup with over a dozen Macintosh models, and seemed to lack a clear plan forward" Much like with Timmy's Apple today.....
Score: 65 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DocPenguin Avatar
41 months ago
I wonder how Steve would feel about the continuing decay of the Mac lineup.
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MedRed Avatar
41 months ago
3 different form factors in less than 10 years. Zero form factor changes in the last decade. Tim Cook sucked all the magic out of Apple.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Naraxus Avatar
41 months ago
Seems like you always...ALWAYS have something negative to say, this should be a happy thread.
When Apple does something worthy of praise then I might be less negative.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icanhazapple Avatar
41 months ago
I wonder how Steve would feel about the continuing decay of the Mac lineup.
It's really sad to see watch what's happening to Apple.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NinjaHERO Avatar
41 months ago
I'll never forget my first white plastic macbook. I had only used PCs up until that point. My last PC was flooded with virus's and I was like, I'm done. Mac time. I've never looked back. I'm still excited to buy my next one. :-)
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone12protriplelenscamera

Apple's Orders for Key iPhone 13 Camera Component Expected to Outstrip Entire Android Market

Wednesday June 9, 2021 12:47 am PDT by
Major camera upgrades coming to the iPhone 13 series are putting increased pressure on suppliers to meet Apple's demand for key lens components, according to a new DigiTimes report. Apple has reportedly put Taiwan-based makers of voice coil motor (VCM) components on notice to increase their capacity by 30-40% in order to meet the company's demand, which is expected to outstrip the entire...
macos monterey setup assistant

macOS Monterey Allows You to Erase a Mac Without Needing to Reinstall the Operating System

Wednesday June 9, 2021 4:41 pm PDT by
It's been a few days since Apple announced macOS Monterey, and we continue to dig through new features that weren't mentioned during the WWDC keynote, including a much more convenient way of erasing a Mac. Following in the footsteps of the iPhone and iPad, the Mac has gained an "Erase All Content and Settings" option on macOS Monterey. The option allows you to erase all user data and...
EEC Apple iphone 13

Apple Registers iPhone 13 Models in Eurasia Ahead of September Launch

Friday June 11, 2021 2:16 am PDT by
Nashville Chatter Class has discovered a new Russian-language regulatory filing in the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) database pointing towards several unreleased iPhone 13 models that Apple will be launching in the fall. Versions of iPhone running iOS 14 are listed with the model numbers A2628, A2630, A2634, A2635, A2640, A2643, and A2645. None of the numbers correspond to Apple's...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky iOS App, Website, and API Now Scheduled to Remain Available Until End of 2022

Thursday June 10, 2021 7:34 am PDT by
Last year, Apple acquired the weather app Dark Sky, and shortly after its purchase, Apple shut down the app for Android. Despite the revamped iOS 15 Weather app taking heavy inspiration from Dark Sky, the weather's app standalone iOS app, web app, and API will remain available until the end of next year, compared to the end of this year, as previously planned. Dark Sky announced in an update ...
mr white ipod touch 5 protoype3

Unreleased iPod Touch 5 With Chamfered Edges and 30-Pin Dock Connector Shared Online

Thursday June 10, 2021 2:05 am PDT by
Occasional leaker Mr White has today shared interesting images on Twitter of what appears to be an old-school fifth-generation iPod touch prototype with chamfered edges and a brushed aluminum finish. The original iPod touch 5 that Apple released in October 2012 had a unibody anodized aluminum chassis with rounded edges, and was available in several colors, including slate. Another...
live text macos monterey

Several macOS Monterey Features Unavailable on Intel-Based Macs

Wednesday June 9, 2021 8:23 am PDT by
While there are many great new features in macOS Monterey, several of them are not available on Intel-based Macs, according to Apple. On the macOS Monterey features page, fine print indicates that the following features require a Mac with the M1 chip, including any MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac model released since November 2020:Portrait Mode blurred backgrounds in...
ipad mini 6

Next iPad Mini Will Allegedly Feature Thinner Bezels, USB-C Port, and Touch ID Power Button

Friday June 11, 2021 1:13 pm PDT by
On his newly launched Front Page Tech website, leaker Jon Prosser has shared renders showing off the alleged design of the next-generation iPad mini, which he says are based on schematics, CAD files, and real images of the device. In line with details shared earlier this month by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, Prosser claims that the new iPad mini will feature slimmer bezels around...
apple logo plain

Trump Administration Subpoenaed Apple for Data on Two House Intelligence Committee Democrats

Thursday June 10, 2021 6:21 pm PDT by
When investigating leaks of classified information during the early days of the Trump Administration, the United States Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for metadata from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, reports The New York Times. Apple was also required to provide data from their aides and family members, with the DoJ requesting the records of...
macos monterey tidbits feature copy

macOS Monterey Tidbits: Animated Memoji on Login Screen, Change the Color of the Mouse Pointer, and More

Friday June 11, 2021 10:27 am PDT by
We've highlighted several new features coming in macOS Monterey, such as Low Power Mode and the option to erase a Mac without reinstalling the operating system, but there are some smaller tidbits that we wanted to share. Animated Memoji on Login Screen One small but fun new feature in macOS Monterey is the addition of a personalized Memoji on the login screen, complete with animated facial...
ios15 mail privacy feature

Apple Putting a Stop to Email Tracking Pixels With Mail Privacy Protection in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey

Thursday June 10, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
Tracking when you've opened up an email and what you've read is something that many companies and advertisers rely on for their marketing efforts, plus there are email clients out there designed to let users know when the emails they've sent have been opened up. Much of this tracking is facilitated by remote images that load when viewing an email, and some of it is even sneakier, with...