I've just taken delivery of my new iMac. Clearly a design classic, its integrated, all-in-one design and slot-loading optical drive ooze elegance. I like the easy to look at screen and those rounded curves are still as sexy as ever.
I have replaced the mouse, I didn't really get on with the one supplied with the machine. I'm also impressed by the built-in applications, particularly its handy (but limited) productivity suite, AppleWorks.
I also like the fact that it's blue.
You see, I've ended up at the end of a chain of iMac users, but this is one of the blue iMacs that shipped around 1999. It's still a lovely piece of engineering, though clearly underpowered for today's applications. And it runs OS 9.2. Which I'm finding strangely familiar.
I thought I'd be confused, I'm not, I spent many an hour using that OS, and those that preceeded it. It's like slipping into a warm and familiar bed, albeit a somewhat creaky one these days.
In 1999, Apple's then interim CEO Steve Jobs enthused: “I’m in love with the new iMac - it’s the finest product Apple has ever created. Desktop video and AirPort wireless networking are the next revolutionary features for home and classroom computing.”
Flash forward to 2007, and Apple's now CEO Jobs is still enthusiastic, flying free with superlatives: “This new iMac is the most incredible desktop computer we’ve ever made."
Let's take a look at some of what iMac users were excited about in 1999 - and for the sake of argument, compare those specifications to what we got this week.
1999's Blueberry iMac (the one I've got, it's still beautiful) hosted a powerful ("Pentium-toasting", Apple then claimed) 350MHz processor. It had a mighty 64MB of RAM pre-installed and a stunning 512k cache.
God, it was sexy. Performance and Power. I really wanted one. I wanted that kind of speed. Craved it. I was doing a lot of page layout at the time, and had just finished a stint working at a London arts centre, trying to drum up publicity and bring people to its free (and fab) events. This iMac was exciting.
In 2007, the new iMac features Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at up to 2.8GHz (WTF?). There's 4MB of cache and 1GB of pre-installed memory. (Apple's always been a little tight-fisted with memory).
God, it's sexy. Performance and Power. I really want one. I want that kind of speed. Crave it. I'm beginning to do a lot of music and video creation on my Mac, saving up for a copy of Logic (because I can't blag or borrow one). This iMac is exciting.
In 1999, I couldn't believe the hard drive size. Why would anyone ever need a gargantuan 6GB of space? What could that be for?
Of course, Napster launched a few weeks later, and music and media went online. I couldn't fit my music library on a 1999 iMac these days. But in those days I wanted one - all that space - my data needed liebensraum, I cried. Anxious. Frustrated. Impoverished. All the character traits of a true geekl.
Today's iMac offers a minimum 250GB of space. That's around 42 times as much space - in just eight years. If nothing else, that illustrates how the data space demands of applications, files, and digital media have exploded, moving from the domain of geekdom and professionals into something that's so much more personal (baby).
If I'd downloaded the demo version of the new iWork suite I could quickly build an attractive-looking spreadsheet to illustrate the exponential growth in data storage demands since the birth of the digital media age.
Sadly, life's too short, I'm too tired, and I have a Blueberry iMac to play with (I wish it was green, but you can't have everything, right? Why not, by the way?)
Funnily enough, these days when looking at new Macs I always find myself favouring the highest available capacity drive. "250GB," I mutter, "that's good for now - but I'll still need extra storage.."
Things change so fast. I lurve storage now.
OK, so a quick check through the other 1999 iMac features. This sexy design classic offers a 24-speed CD-ROM (cool, a built-in CD-ROM drive); a MODEM (56k); 10/100Base-T Ethernet and two of those fantastic revolutionary USB ports. And it's fanless (so quiet) and makes a GREAT BIG NOISE thanks to its built-in speakers.
This iMac is truly a wonderful investment for the price ($1,199 in the US when it shipped). It's future proof. I'll still be using it in the years to come, I thought.
Didn't get one though. My relationship with excess cash has always been, erm, temporary. There's always a utility bill to blast your dreams apart.
Good job really.
Today's iMac offers a SuperDrive (burn DVDs? Unheard of in 1999). It has a built-in AirPort card, but no modem, has three USB ports (two more on the keyboard); FireWire ports; Gigabit Ethernet. And makes a GREAT BIG NOISE thanks to its built-in and almost invisible speakers.
One final key difference. One iMac takes up so little space - it has at least a 20-inch flat screen, but you can pretty much put it anywhere you like in your home; the other has a 15-inch CRT display and I don't know where to put it. I need desk space.
Back then, I really wanted an iMac. I was blown away by the power and glory of the machine. I mean - my first Mac was an LCII with a 20MB drive. This machine was an exponential improvement.
I didn't get one. Money, time and the need to GET A LIFE stopped me flashing my cash at Apple's digital dreamboat.
Still, I got one in the end. I love the elegance of its award-winning design. I'm trying to think up a use for it (ideas on a postcard to the usual address).
With this iMac as an M.O., I look forward to owning an entry-level 2007 iMac some time in 2015.
I wonder what computing will be all about then. Will we even have storage any more? Will we have computers? Will we even be here?