“Where did the computer go?”

Filed under: Hardware

When, at the end of August 2004, Apple introduced the new iMac G5, Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, stated that “A lot of people will be wondering ‘where did the computer go?’”.

wheredidthecomputergo

With the entire system fused with the display in a design only two inches thick, the new iMac was in fact a masterpiece of technological miniaturization. But it not only totally removed the main processing unit from the user’s view, it also packed in less space more power than the preceding G4-based generation, blurring even more the line between professional and consumer products.

iMac G5 inside

The insides of (allegedly) “the world’s thinnest desktop computer”, featured a PowerPC 970 “G5” chip, running at a speed of 1.6 or 1.8 GHz on a 533/600 MHz front-side bus, coupled with an high-performance NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics processor with 64 MB video memory.
It was quite a power boost when compared to the specs of the iMac G4, which sported a 1.0/1.25 GHz G4 processor on a 167 MHz Bus Speed and 32 MB of VRam, and whose innards were housed in a detached semi-spherical base with a diameter of 10.6 inches. The iMac G5 on the other hand, was housed in a completely new enclosure reminiscent of Apple’s Cinema Display line, perched atop an aluminium foot.

iMac G5 family

The displays (and form factors) were two, one with a 17 and the another with a 20″ LCD monitor, but in both the width of the iMac remained the same, a paltry two inches. Exceptional as that may seem to be, in the following years Apple further reduced the width and since 2012, in its thinnest point, the iMac measures a tenth of that size, just 0,2″.

Made from white polycarbonate, a choice shared by Apple consumer products of the times, the rectangular case of the new iMac G5 was also the ultimate statement in design simplicity, the latest step in a path started in 1984.

With its elegantly thin profile, defined by Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive as “so uncluttered, so quite and serene”, few protruding cables*, no external power supply and whisper-quiet operation (less than 25 dB) the iMac G5 shared the same philosophy of not only the first iMac (remember the “Un-PC” ad?) but also of the original Macintosh: a powerful and easy to use personal computer with a minimal footprint on the user’s desktop.

fromthecreatorsoftheipod

According to Ive, the design of the new iMac was also heavily inspired by the iPod, and the promotional material underlined the similarities between the two products.
Apple showed the iMac posing together with the digital walkman, used slogan such as “From the creators of the iPod” and descriptions that suggested

“What if you could fit your whole life — all your music, all your photos, all your movies, all your email — in a computer as fun and useful as an iPod? Now you can.”

This strategy worked and the iMac G5 was among the first Macintoshes to exploit the so-called “Halo effect” from the iPod, where enthusiasm from the player benefited the corporation’s other products. As the quarterly results show, in the following months the Cupertino company steadiliy grew its sales and percentage of the PC market, wooing users away from Windows with new iMac models and also a cheap Macintosh for “switchers”, the Mac mini. But that’s another story…

* just one, actually, thanks to the optional internal Bluetooth module and Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Wireless Mouse

Note: all images are “courtesy of Apple”.

Tuesday 16 September 2014, 2:28 pm
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