All-In-Ones


Apple is one of the few companies that has consistently produced all-in-one computers that include the computer, monitor, and speakers all in one case. The Lisa and first Macintosh were all-in-one machines and Apple continues their heritage today with the iMac, which is its longest selling line of all-in-ones. I’m fascinated by the way that Apple designs computers that are centered around the screen and the details that go with it. I’ve owned three all-in-one Macs personally (a Mac Classic and two iMacs) and have added several more to my collection for the museum.

Macintosh 128k

Released: January 1984

Design: Macintosh

Original Price: $2,495

Museum Price: $25

Added: December 2011

 

Introduced in January 1984, the Macintosh was the first successful mass-marketed personal computer with a graphical interface. While it was not based on the $10,000 Lisa released the prior year, the Macintosh did use a similar graphical user interface and mouse. It cost a quarter of the Lisa ($2,495) but was still out of reach of many home users. The Macintosh sold as an all-in-one package based around a crisp 9″ black and white screen. It ran on an 8 MHz Motorola 68000 CPU, had 128k of memory, and a single 3.5″ 400k floppy disk drive. Hard drives were extremely expensive at the time so the Macintosh did not include one and ran solely off of floppy disks. Surprisingly it boots in 10-15 seconds disk and each disk has enough room for the OS, a couple of programs, and a few user documents. Often times users would have to swap floppy disks back and forth so it was common to purchase an additional external drive.

The Macintosh is unique in many ways including the fact that it does not have a fan and uses vents on the top of the case for cooling. While its design provides silent operation it also causes overheating after prolonged operation. The original Macintosh models through the Macintosh Plus were prone to failure due to overheating and as a result allowed a vibrant third party cooling market to emerge. Steve Jobs wanted the Macintosh to be different than IBM’s business-oriented PCs and mandated that its keyboard not include a numeric keypad. Apple eventually offered one as an accessory and later built one into the keyboard of the Mac Plus.

The Macintosh changed the way that people interact with their computers and still has influence today. It introduced the mouse, menus, windows, copy and paste, icons, the trash (or recycle bin), scroll bars, and computerized fonts into the consumer space. The hardware design of the Macintosh continued to influence the design of Apple’s products in the form of the all-in-one LC 500 and 5000 series and later the iMac. The original design of the Macintosh was so successful that Apple continued to create products based on it for the next nine years.

My original Macintosh was an absolute steal. I got it and a Mac Plus for $50 from a woman who used to work at Harvard. It came with the original keyboard, mouse, printer, manuals, software boxes, and an additional external floppy drive. I was really surprised at how quickly it booted and how quiet it runs. Mine has a memory modification that gives it 1 MB of RAM via a motherboard upgrade that I’m still figuring out. It’s definitely a cool machine.

Macintosh Plus

Released: January 1986

Design: Macintosh

Original Price: $2,600

Museum Price: $25

Added: December 2011

 

One of the major complaints about the original Macintosh was its lack of memory. With 128k of total memory it could only run one program at a time and developers had to carefully design applications to make conservative use of what was available. This was extremely challenging as the graphical interface of the system allowed for much more complex interactions that required more memory. If that wasn’t bad enough, the memory was not upgradable. Users were stuck with 128k forever. Apple addressed some of the memory concerns with the release of the Macintosh 512k with 512k of memory in late 1984, though it was still not upgradeable. It wasn’t until January 1986 that Apple finally gave users what they were asking for: 1 MB of upgradeable memory.

The Mac Plus also offered other upgrades over the 128k and 512k models. It was the first Mac to include a SCSI port so that users could attach a fast external hard drive. It also included an 800k floppy drive with twice the space for applications and documents. As a result of its higher density floppy drive and ability attach a hard drive, the Plus can run up to System 7.5.5 which was released in 1996. It had a larger and upgraded ROM chip that included the ability to address SCSI devices and to handle the nested Hierarchical File System (HFS) that the Mac OS still uses today.

The Plus still included an 8 MHz Motorola 68000 CPU, a black and white 9″ screen, and used phone cords to connect the keyboard. It shared the same case as the Macintosh 128k and 512k and still lacked a fan, however it was offered in both the beige of the original Macintosh and later the gray “platinum” color. Pricing was slightly higher at $2,600.

I got my Plus with my original Macintosh. It included the extended keyboard with numeric keypad and an extra 800k disk drive. It is not a platinum model. It runs in a similar way to my original Macintosh and I’d love to try running System 6.0.8 on a floppy disk off of it if I could get it on there.

Macintosh SE/30

Released: January 1989

Design: Macintosh SE

Original Price: $4,639

Museum Price: $30

Added: May 2002

 

The classic all-in-one Macintosh used the same 8 MHz Motorola 68000 CPU through four models over five years. It wasn’t until 1989 that Apple gave its venerable black and white an upgrade, and a serious one at that. January 1989 marked the release of the Macintosh SE/30 which ran the same 16 MHz Motorola 68030 CPU and 68882 FPU coprocessor as the full-sized Macintosh IIx desktop making it four times faster than a Macintosh SE. It was also the first classic Macintosh to ship with an internal hard drive by default (an option on the 1987 SE) and a high density 1.4 MB floppy drive. It used a slightly modified version of the SE case without the second floppy disk slot (which was occupied by the internal hard disk). It used the same 9″ screen as previous classic Macintosh models, provided additional memory expansion over the SE (up to 128 MB), and included a PDS expansion slot for network, video, and upgrade cards.

The SE/30 was essentially a Macintosh IIx in a compact case with a built-in monochrome screen and carried a similar price. At $6,500 it was only about $1,200 less than a IIx which had dual floppy disk drives and six NuBus expansion slots but did not include a monitor or even a video card. The SE/30 included either a 40 or 80 MB hard disk drive and 1 MB of memory. It’s ROM chip included Color QuickDraw which allowed it to display color graphics on a color monitor attached via a PDS slot video card however it was not a “32-bit clean” ROM and thus did not allow the system to access more than 8 MB of memory without a system extension.

I picked up my SE/30 from a math teacher at my high school who had a collection of machines in his classroom. By that time I already had a Macintosh Classic, a PowerBook 170, and a PowerBase 180 but still found the SE/30 interesting. It was definitely faster than my Classic and a bit faster than my 170 but it didn’t blow me away. It was more of a fun toy to have. It has an 80 MB hard drive with 10 MB of RAM and a bit of a boot identity crisis. I usually have to boot it twice before it recognizes that it has a hard drive installed.

Macintosh LC 520

Released: July 1993

Design: LC 500 Series

Original Price: $2,000

Museum Price: FREE

Added: November 2012

 

As the reign of the monochrome 9″ Macintosh was winding down (sales of the Classic II, released in 1991, would soon cease) Apple introduced its next iteration of the all-in-one design in the form of the LC 520. The LC 520 was sold exclusively to the education market (a Performa version was sold to everyday consumers) and combined a 14″ color CRT display with a Motorola 68030 CPU, CD-ROM drive, stereo speakers, an microphone in one case. Internally it was the same as an LC III and provided the same PDS expansion slot for network cards and other devices. The case looks like a monitor stacked on top of a desktop case stacked on top of a set of speakers. It actually looks pretty nice. The 520 is notable for its easy upgrade design. With the removal of two screws the hard disk and entire motherboard slide out for easy upgrading. They slide back in and fit into sockets that connect them to power and data.

The LC 520 ran off of a 25 MHz 68030 CPU and contained 5 MB of RAM (expandable to 36 MB), an 80 – 160 MB hard drive and a 2x tray loading CD-ROM drive. It sold for $2,000.

I’m pretty sure that I came across one or two of the LC 500 series Macs in my school days (maybe it was the 5000 series) but even if I didn’t I find the design to be interesting. It literally looks like the components of a desktop computer all stacked on top of one another, perfectly angled and aligned. Its design reflects the curviness of the post-Snow White era in the slightly bulging lines under the monitor and disk drives. Mine does not boot (a result of me trying to clean corrosion off of the motherboard) but I still like owning it. I was very surprised at how easily everything just slides out of the back for upgrading. The hard drive is attached to an adapter that slides into a slot which provides both power and data connections. This makes it easy to pull the entire drive out in one motion without removing one screw. It’s really cool. Someday I hope to find a motherboard replacement for it that I can swap out.

Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One

Released: April 1998

Design: G3 All-in-One

Original Price: $1,599

Museum Price: FREE

Added: May October 2011

 

The Power Macintosh G3 All-in-One is a strange duck of design. Released about a year months after Apple’s last all-in-one system (the Power Macintosh 5500), the G3 used an all new design built around a larger 15″ monitor and in the process lost much of the grace held by its predecessors. From the front and sides it looks like a box and from above its curved top makes it look like a molar tooth. Tipping the scales at 60 lbs (50% heavier than an iMac), this was not a computer that was meant to be lugged around. The G3 All-in-One was sold specifically to the education market and was Apple’s first all-in-one design to include a powerful G3 CPU. Internally it was the similar to a desktop Power Macintosh G3, even including 3 PCI expansion slots and a “personality card” slot, contributing to its boxy shape. The front of the machine includes a floppy drive and optional zip drive above a CD-ROM drive centered between two speakers.

The low end model sold for $1,499 and included a 233 MHz G3 CPU with 512k cache, a 4 GB hard drive, 32 MB of RAM (expandable to 768 MB), and a 24x CD-ROM drive. The high end model included a 266 MHz G3 for $300 more. Larger hard drives and a zip drive were optional upgrades.

The G3 All-in-One is an interesting machine not only for its design but also because it was release a month before the iMac, which offered similar power in a much smaller and more attractive package. The iMac however lacked the expandability of the All-in-One. I picked up my G3 All-in-One from a friend and was excited to use it only to find out that the monitor is dead. The machine powers on and seems to run, but nothing appears on the screen. It doesn’t have a hard drive, but I’m planning to plug it into another monitor to see what it’s got.

iMac (Rev D)

Released: August 1998

Design: iMac (Rev A-D)

Original Price: $1,299

Museum Price: FREE

Added: September 2011

 

The iMac is the computer that saved Apple. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, he told the press that Apple’s biggest problem was that it didn’t make products with innovative designs anymore. Shortly after becoming the interim CEO in 1997, Jobs tasked his design team to come up with something that challenged the perception of a computer. Upon introduction, colored translucent plastic all-in-one iMac stunned the world. It was groundbreaking in many ways. It’s colorful egg-shaped design with an inviting handle at the top makes it stand out and start conversation. It’s price was extremely low for a Mac with its technical specs, making it accessible to a whole new market of users. The technologies it includes, USB namely, and the technologies it doesn’t – serial, ADB, SCSI, and floppy drives – set the standard for the next five years of Apple hardware. The iMac became one of Apple’s best selling computers and helped give the company the financial footing it needed to come back from the dead.

The original iMac shipped in a teal color known as “Bondi Blue” and included a 233 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU, 32 MB of RAM, a 4 GB hard drive, and a 24x tray-loading CD-ROM. In January 1999, the CPU speed was bumped to 266 MHz, the hard drive was increased to 6 GB, and Bondi Blue was replaced by five new colors – Blueberry, Tangerine, Lime, Grape, and Strawberry. A minor update in April 1999 bumped the CPU speed up to 333 MHz.

I own a 333 MHz Blueberry iMac with 64 MB RAM and a 6 GB hard drive. I picked it up off of Craigslist for free along with its keyboard and mouse. The iMac was the closest I could have ever come to getting a Mac when I was in high school. At $1,300 it was still far out of my reach but I still remember trying to convince my dad to buy one. I remember dreaming about being able to run the brand-new Mac OS 8.5 on it so that I could browse the internet that everyone was talking about. Alas I never did get an iMac until I was in college, and by then it was a 24″ Intel model. Owning and original-style iMac brings me back to that time.

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iMac (Rev A-D) Profile – A detailed explanation of the iMac Rev D that is in the museum

iMac DV SE

Released: October 1999

Design: iMac (Slot-Loading)

Original Price: $1,499

Museum Price: FREE

Added:September 2011

After a year and a half on the market, Apple introduced the next iteration of the iMac’s design. Still built around a 15″ CRT display and the same egg-like shape, the new iMac sported a smoother design that showed off more of its internals, included a slot-loading CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, and included an improved sound system. For this revision, Apple broke the line down into three “trim levels” – the base, the enhanced DV, and the top-of-the-line DV Special Edition. The DV Special Edition had the same features as the “flavored” DV models but included a larger hard drive, more memory, and a DVD drive. It was billed as a movie-making machine and included Apple’s first version of iMovie.The iMac DV SE includes a 400 MHz PowerPC G3 CPU, 128 MB RAM, a 13 GB hard drive, and a 4X DVD-ROM. It is the only model to come in Apple’s more professional “Graphite” gray color. The SE was updated in July 2000 with a 500 MHz G3, a 30 GB hard drive, and an additional white “Snow” model. In February 2001 “DV” name was dropped and the SE was upgraded to a 600 MHz G3, a 40 GB hard drive, and the DVD drive was replaced by a 4x CD-RW drive. The snow model was dropped in favor of the controversial “Flower Power” and “Blue Dalmation” models. Graphite was still available. A final update was released in July 2001 with an upgrade to a 700 MHz G3 and a 60 GB hard drive.  The Flower Power and Blue Dalmation models were dropped and the Snow model was brought back.I own an iMac DV SEs with a 400 MHz G3, 256 MB RAM, and a 20 GB hard drive. I assume that this model was custom ordered due to its larger-than-normal hard drive. I found it on Freecycle for free and other than it smelling like smoke and having to pick it up from one of the sketchiest parts of town I’ve ever been to, it’s a good system. I really like the design of the iMac slot-loading series. Apple reconfigured the internals so that it could remove the frosting from the case and show it off. It makes the back of a CRT display look incredibly cool. The slot-loading models don’t include any sort of fan so all you hear is the hard drive and the display, which become quite noisy with age.Related ArticlesiMac DV SE Profile – All about my iMac DV SE
iMac DV (Summer 2000, Ruby)

Released: July 2000

Design: iMac (Slot-Loading)

Original Price: $999

Museum Price: $25

Added: September 2011

 

The Summer 2000 iMac line was the second generation of Apple’s slot-loading iMac design. In addition to speed and capacity bumps it introduced new colors to the line up as well as a new model. The cloudy-translucent Blueberry, Grape, Strawberry, Tangerine, and Lime colors from the prior generation were replaced with glossier, more transparent Indigo, Ruby, Sage, and Snow colors to match the style of the DV SE’s Graphite. The translucent white “Snow” model replaced both Grape and Tangerine from the prior generation. There were now four models to choose from: the $799 base model, the $999 iMac DV, the new $1,299 iMac DV+, and the $1,499 iMac DV SE. The $799 base model represented the lowest price Apple ever charged for an iMac. All of the models shipped with the new full-sized Apple Pro Keyboard and optical Apple Pro Mouse. The keyboard and mouse were only offered in graphite; the days of color coordinated accessories were over.

Other than coloring and styling this revision of the iMac was strictly speed and capacity. The base model iMac, only available in Indigo, included a 350 MHz G3 CPU, a 6 GB hard drive, a slot-loading CD-ROM drive, and 64 MB of RAM. For $200 more customers could purchase the DV model, available in Indigo or Ruby, to get a 400 MHz CPU, a 10 GB hard drive, an AirPort wireless networking slot, and two FireWire ports. Add $300 to get a DV+ with a 450 MHz G3, 20 GB hard drive, DVD-ROM drive, and an additional color option, Sage. The top-of-the-line iMac DV SE topped out at $1,499 and included a 500 MHz CPU, 30 GB hard drive, 128 MB RAM, and was available in either Graphite or Snow.

I have an iMac DV in Ruby that I found on Craigslist. It is essentially identical to my iMac DV SE except that it doesn’t have a DVD slot. I picked it up because I like the color of it. I really love the color of all of Apple’s iMacs and would eventually love to “collect them all”. They are neat because the coloring looks different depending on the lighting and angle. In normal lighting it looks more like a red computer but if there is strong lighting from above it almost glows.

iMac SE “Flower Power” (Early 2001)

Released: February 2001

Design :iMac (Slot-Loading)

Original Price: $1,499

Museum Price: $50

Added: January 2013

 

Seven months after expanding the iMac line to four tiers, Apple simplified it once again. Gone were the DV, DV+, and DV SE models in favor of simply the iMac and iMac Special Edition. As usual the new models included updated hardware but the biggest news was the introduction of two new patterned designs called “Flower Power” and “Blue Dalmation”. The upper case is a base snow color with a pattern printed inside. Blue Dalmation is a baby blue color with white circles and Flower Power is a collection of overlapping pastel flowers inspired by the 60s. It was an interesting manufacturing feat but the designs were largely viewed as gaudy and were not continued with the next revision.

Major changes to this generation were the inclusion of faster CPUs (400 – 600 MHz) with faster cache, larger hard drives (10, 20, 40 GB), faster graphics with more memory, and a CD-RW drive instead of DVD drive on the higher end models. These were released at the time that Apple realized it had missed the boat for the past couple of years by including DVD drives instead of CD-RW drives. While there were now only two models there were still three configurations. The lowest-priced iMac was only available in Indigo with a 400 MHz G3 (PowerPC 750), 64 MB RAM, and a 10 GB hard drive for $899 in Indigo. The mid-range iMac bumped the CPU to 500 MHz (PowerPC 750cx), the hard drive to 20 GB, a higher-end graphics chip with 16 MB memory, and replaced the CD drive with a CD-RW drive for $1,199. It was available in Indigo, Blue Dalmation, and Flower Power. The top-end Special Edition model had a 600 MHz CPU, a 40 GB hard drive, and 128 MB RAM for $1,499 and was available in Blue Dalmation, Flower Power, and Graphite.

This represents the fifth generation of the iMac and the third generation of the slot-loading model at a time when Apple used the G4 for its pro machines and the G3 for its consumer models. There would be one more revision to this design before the G3 ran out of steam and a G4 iMac was released. This also marked the beginning of a transition away from flashy colors to a more muted design. Even though the Blue Dalmation and Flower Power designs were attention-grabbing, they were done in lighter colors on a whiter base than previous designs. The final revision of this line would only be available in Indigo, Graphite, and Snow before being replaced by the all-white iMac G4

I picked up my Flower Power Special Edition model from Craigslist for a very reasonable prices. Due to their wild feminine color schemes, the Blue Dalmation and Flower Power models did not sell well and are relatively rare. The design is indeed very interesting with multiple layers of translucent flowers printed into the case but it looks like something that belongs in the room of a 12 year old girl or a Volkswagen Beetle not an adult’s office. I remember thinking that they were hideous when they came out. As time has gone by I’ve started to appreciate them but I never would have purchased one for myself.

iMac G4 (15″)

Released: January 2002

Design: iMac G4

Original Price: $1,299

Museum Price: $40

Added: Nov 2011

 

After three and a half years and six revisions running on the G3 processor, the iMac was upgraded to a G4 at the beginning of 2002. With the new CPU came a new design based around a 15″ flat panel display. The new iMac consisted of an LCD screen attached to a shiny metal arm which was connected to a half-dome that housed the computer and optical drive. The design gave the screen the illusion of floating above the half dome while also allowing users to choose a variety of angles and locations for the screen. The new iMac came only in white, echoing the design aesthetic of the iPod and iBook.

With the introduction of a flat panel screen, pricing for the line had to be adjusted. Gone was the $999 model, replaced with a $1,299 model at the low end. The base model included a 700 MHz G4 CPU, 128 MB of memory, a 40 GB hard drive, a CD-RW drive, and a set of Apple’s Pro speakers which used a proprietary audio jack only available on the iMac G4 and certain Power Mac G4 towers. For $200 more customers could upgrade to the mid range model which doubled the memory to 256 MB and included a DVD/CD-RW “combo” drive. The top end model cost $1,799 and added an 800 MHz G4, a 60 GB hard drive, and a CD-RW/DVD-R “SuperDrive” to the mix.

I picked up my iMac on eBay in an as-is auction. I took a risk on it because the description stated that it did not boot while the images definitely showed it booting to the flashing question mark icon that indicates there was no OS found. All it needed was new hard drive, which I installed myself. I think I nicked the wire that goes to the screen though, as it occasionally has a heavy green tint. I always thought the look of the iMac G4 was so cool and I’ve always wanted to have one.

eMac

Released: April 2002

Design: eMac

Original Price: $1,199

Museum Price: $40

Added: January 2012

 

With the introduction of the iMac G4, Apple no longer offered a Mac for under $1,000. This hit the education market especially hard since the $1,299 iMac G4 wasn’t necessarily the most rugged machine in the hands of young computer users. The remedy to this problem was the eMac, essentially a G4 powered version of the Snow White iMac DV SE with a 17″ screen. Ok, maybe they aren’t that similar. The eMac is certainly larger and heavier due to the larger screen and does use a new design. There is no handle, no transparency, and only one type glossy white plastic around the entire machine. It is still egg shaped, but there is no curvature on the front of the machine and the case tapers more narrowly toward the back.The slot-loading optical drive has been replaced by a tray loading one. The eMac was initially only available to the education market, but like similar products in Apple’s past it was later made available to consumers (at a higher price, of course).

The eMac was available in two models. The low end $999 model ($1,099 for general consumers) included a 700 MHz PowerPC G4 CPU, 128 MB RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and a 32X CD-ROM drive. An Airport wireless networking card was optional. The consumer model included a CD-RW drive instead of a CD-ROM drive. For an additional $200, education customers could upgrade to the top-end model which upgraded the CD-ROM drive to a DVD/CD-RW/DVD-R SuperDrive. This model was not available to consumers with the original eMac’s release.

I picked up my eMac on Craigslist, from all places, a high school. It is the 700 MHz/CD-ROM model but it includes an Airport card. The first thing I noticed about it is how heavy and deep it is. It weighs 50 lbs, about 40% more than an iMac, and while it isn’t any deeper (17.1 inches) its narrow back and lack of handle make it more difficult to carry and move around. It doesn’t have a foot to increase the angle of the screen but the front is more angled than an iMac anyway. The front is actually very clean with nothing but the screen, two speakers, and a silver Apple logo on top of the hidden optical drive door. The screen is certainly larger and more crisp than the screen on the iMac G3 but isn’t the same quality as the screen Apple uses in their 17″ Studio Display.

imac_20_150

iMac G4 USB 2.0 (20″)

Released: November 2003

Design: iMac G4

Original Price: $2,199

Museum Price: $15

Added: March 2013

 

A year after expanding the iMac G4 line to include a 17″ model in July 2002, Apple decided that customers needed more choice and added a 20″ model to the mix. The 20″ iMac uses the same design as the 17″ and 15″ models but carries more weight in the base (almost twice as much as the 17″ model) so that it can support its large screen without toppling over. Otherwise, its design is the same. The 20″ model was introduced as part of the “USB 2.0” series of iMacs that added, you guessed it, USB 2.0.

The 20″ model includes a 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4, an 80 or 160 GB hard drive, a tray-loading DVD-burning SuperDrive (at 4x), 256 MB RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra GPU with 64 MB RAM, and a 20″ 1680 x 1050 pixel LCD display. It includes a slot for an optional Airport Extreme card (802.11g / 54 Mbps), optional Bluetooth 1.1, 10/100 Base Ethernet, a 56k V.92 modem, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 FireWire 400 ports, Audio In, Audio Out, Apple Pro Speaker ports, as well as a Mini-VGA port that supports video mirroring (technically it supports extended desktop mode but it is disabled in firmware). The iMac shipped with a white keyboard and mouse as well as a pair of Apple Pro speakers which use a proprietary jack available on some Macs.

I snagged my iMac from Savers for $15. It was plugged in without a keyboard or mouse and was displaying the startup question mark that indicates it has no OS. I took a chance on it (who could pass it up for $15), cleaned it up, installed Mac OS 10.4, and it is a perfectly functioning machine. I remember thinking that the 20″ model looked ridiculous in pictures when it was released, but in person it’s not so bad. Probably because I’m so used to widescreen displays now. I have a pair of Apple Pro speakers hooked up to it and I use it for basement dance parties with my sons. Overall the design is the same as my 15″ iMac with subtle differences in the screens (other than size). The 15″ model has screws visible along the sides to anchor the assembly which are not on the 20″. The bezel around the screen is also different. The 15″ has a piece of clear plastic around it with white plastic overlaid on top. The 20″ is almost the opposite: the clear plastic bezel actually sits on top of the white bezel. The font for the word “iMac” is also different – the 15″ uses Apple’s serifed Garamond while the 20″ uses sans-serif Myriad that Apple still uses on its products today.

24″ iMac (Late 2006)

Released: September 2006

Design: Intel iMac

Original Price: $1,999

Museum Price: $1,999

Added: October 2006

 

The iMac went through several revisions between the release of the iMac G4 in 2002 and the 24″ Intel iMac in 2006. The “lamp shade” design lasted for another 2 years as its screen size expanded to include 17″ and 20″ models. In 2004 Apple debuted a new form factor that made almost the entire machine into the screen. Based around a 17″ or 20″ screen, the iMac G5 introduced the configuration and layout that would remain in the iMac line through today. The 24″ Intel iMac followed the basic design of the G5 with a 24″ screen on the front speakers on the bottom (under the screen), optical drive on the side, and CPU and logic board behind the screen. Apple was decidedly conservative with its designs during the Intel transition, focusing on internal rather than external changes. As such, the 24″ Intel iMac looks nearly identical to it’s G5 predecessor albeit with a larger screen. As with other products from Apple’s “white” period, the case is all white with a flat front, rounded corners, and slightly curved back sitting on top of an L shaped stand.

The 24″ model was the first of its kind and the last of the white iMacs to be released before it was completely redesigned. It was one of the first of Apple’s second generation Intel machines based on the Core 2 Duo architecture, which would power the majority of Macs for the next three years. The Core 2 Duo was not only faster and more power efficient than the Core Duo line that it replaced, but it also supported 64-bit instructions, filling in the gap left by Apple’s switch away from the PowerPC G5 in 2006. The cost of the entire line ranged from $1,199 – $1,999 with the 24″ model occupying the top spot. It included a 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 1 GB of memory, a 250 GB hard drive, a slot-loading DVD-R/W/CD-R/W SuperDrive with dual layer DVD burning support, built-in Airport (802.11 a/b/g/n), built-in Bluetooth, and a FireWire 800 port. A 2.33 GHz CPU and upgraded graphics card were optional additions.

The 24″ iMac is one on the few Macs in my museum that I purchased myself brand new. It’s also one of the few that is still in use. I bought it during my senior year of college using one of the last scholarship reimbursement checks that I’d ever get. I sprung for the 24″ model not for its larger screen but for its optional high end NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT graphics chip. My PowerBook G4 was starting to show its age just a little as my main computer and I wanted an Intel machine that could play all of my Windows games. The iMac was it. I skipped out on the first generation because they were too new (Apple was still working out the Intel kinks) and didn’t quite offer what I wanted. The 24″ model had it all – a fast Core 2 Duo, 64-bit compatibility, a DVD burner with dual layer support, and a huge screen. At the time my iMac had a larger screen than my TV! Currently it sits on my wife’s desk as her desktop / online TV machine. I’m sure we’ll find a use for it for many years to come.

27″ iMac (Mid 2010)

Released: July 2010

Design: Aluminum iMac (Edge-to-Edge)

Original Price: $2,300

Museum Price: $2,300

Added: October 2010

 

Ten months after the release of the 24″ iMac Apple introduced a brand new design to the iMac line, the first in 3 years. The white plastic was gone, replaced with a metal enclosure on the front and sides, glossy glass across the front, and black plastic across the back. The shape and layout from the previous version remained. This was Apple’s first redesign of the iMac since the Intel switch, but it didn’t go all the way towards reinventing the machine. That happened in October 2009 with the release of the brand new 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs.

Clad in a thinner, all metal unibody case inspired by the same technology used to manufacture the Unibody MacBook Pro, the new iMacs were the most refined models yet. The entire case was made out of one piece of milled aluminum and the screen was covered by edge-to-edge glass. The new design was the first to incorporate Intel’s new Core i5 and i7 CPUs to the line. The 27″ screen was the first screen to include IPS technology (as used in the iPad) for better color reproduction and viewing angles. It packed almost the same number of pixels as Apple’s $3,200 30″ Cinema Display and allowed, for the first time, the iMac to act as a screen for another computer. This wasn’t video mirroring. This was the ability to use your 27″ iMac as a second display! Definitely cool. An updated line was introduced in July 2010 with slightly bumped specs.

The 21.5″ model was available with a 3.06 GHz Core i3 processor, 4 GB memory, a 500 GB hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 5670 GPU with 256 MB VRAM, DVD burning SuperDrive, AirPort, and Bluetooth for $1,199. A higher-end 21″ model was available with a 3.2 GHz Core i3, 1 TB hard drive, and 512 MB VRAM. The 27″ model started at $1,699 with a 3.2 GHz Core i3, 4 GB of memory, and 1 TB hard drive. The top-end 27″ model cost $1,999 and added a 2.8 GHz Core i5, and an upgraded ATI Radeon HD 5750 GPU with 1 GB of VRAM.

I purchased my 27″ iMac brand new in October of 2010. I upgraded it to a quad-core 2.93 GHz Core i7 processor, bumped the hard drive to 2 TB, and opted to include the brand new Magic Trackpad with it in addition to the standard wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse. I have since increased its memory to 12 GB. I purchased the 27″ model for its powerful GPU, beautiful screen, and target display mode capability. From an upgrade perspective, target display mode is fantastic. It means that once this iMac is “old” and cannot keep up I can replace it with another (possibly cheaper) computer and still use the beautiful display. From a performance and gaming perspective it is a beast. I can play first person shooters at full resolution with great frame rates at reasonable settings. This one will be around for a long time.

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