I was an original 128k Mac owner. Likewise, I picked up a $1,299 Bondi Blue iMac almost 10 years ago. How does the original iMac compare to the 2008 iMac with Intel Inside? It’s remarkable how things change, how much they remain the same, and what your money gets for $1,299 these days. Let the shootout begin.
That Was Then
It’s hard to believe the iMac is about to celebrate a 10th anniversary (or, birthdate, depending on your preference). The original Bondi Blue iMac spawned a generation of friendly personal computers from Apple.
The iMac was special. Both retro and futuristic. Easy to use, difficult to expand. The design was striking, yet familiar. Macworld magazine from 1998:
For years, Apple relied on pedestrian designs for its desktop computers, leaving visual innovation to PowerBook designers. The iMac is different: it demands to be noticed, sporting a fresh, ultramodern design that is at the same time very familiar.
The $1,299 iMac came without Apple’s proprietary ADB bus and cables, instead opting for the slow moving USB connectors. Mouse aficionados decried the hockey puck shaped mouse. Apple’s then-interim CEO, Steve Jobs, said the back of the iMac looked better than the front of the other guys (click any image for a pop up, close up view).
Suddenly, style and design were hot again, after a decade or so of bland and beige. The Mac was back.
The iMac evolved, colorfully, and became the mainstay of Apple’s line, though the use of Motorola-IBM PowerPC chips meant the Mac was doomed to play second fiddle in speed to PCs running Intel Inside.
In the meantime, Apple really did believe in the Think Different ad campaign and introduced the Sunflower iMac. Time magazine had the scoop back in early 2002.
Like many PCs today, the new iMac is built around a flat-panel display. But instead of taking up precious desk space like a typical flat monitor, the iMac’s 15-in. screen floats in the air, attached to a jointed, chrome-pipe neck. It’s also rimmed by a “halo,” a translucent plastic frame that makes you want to pull it toward you—or push it out of the way.
While not a rousing success, the second generation iMac stood tall and proud and underpowered. Design and style won over substance and speed.
This Is Now
Today’s $1,299 iMac is similar to the original in name only, as the iMac has gone through a few generations of style, and now sports muscle with the fastest desktop CPU’s from Intel.
While no one cares much anymore about what’s under the hood, the megahertz and gigahertz wars are over, for now, the new iMac has power to spare. Macworld looked at the latest models:
However, a slate of under-the-hood improvements have facilitated a performance spike in the standard models that makes them an especially good value for people looking to upgrade. Apple boosted the system bus speed from 800MHz in the previous iMac to 1,066MHz in the new iMac. The system bus plays a major role in communications between the processor and system memory, which can make everyday computing faster.
Like the original and predecessors, the iMac of today stands in stark contrast to the PC world in every aspect; design, style, craftsmanship, and power.
Today’s iMacs are faster, powerful, easy to use and come loaded with software that was unheard of back in the day of the original Bondi Blue iMac.
The entry level iMac today retails for $1,199, $100 less than the original iMac a mere 10 years ago. An extra $100 to double the 2008 iMac’s RAM is needed to start the Then vs. Now comparison.
Macworld pointed out the obvious back in 1998.
Considering all these amenities, the most shocking part of the iMac isn’t what it offers, but what it lacks. The iMac has no floppy drive, which might be forgivable if there were a Zip drive or other removable-media option, but there isn’t.
And concluded the 1998 introduction by saying:
Will this latest chapter in the Macintosh saga be Apple’s success story at last? Only time will tell.
The 1998 vs. 2008 iMac vs. iMac is no contest. In every respect, except cuteness and perhaps plastic personality, the 2008 iMac is a winner, offering much more for much less (comparing 1998 dollars vs. 2008 dollars).
The original iMac came with a 233MHz G3 PowerPC chip inside, 32 megs of RAM, and an anemic 4 gigabyte hard drive. All for an attractive price tag: $1,299.
Today, $1,299 gets you a new iMac with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chip inside, 2 gigs of RAM, a whopping 250 gigabyte Serial ATA hard drive.
On the display side, the original iMac came with a 15 inch 16 bit color display with 1,024 by 768 resolution Today’s entry level iMac comes with a 20-inch glossy liquid crystal display at 1,680 by 1,050 resolution.
Wait! There’s more! The new iMac also comes with Wireless built-in, a SuperDrive, a two-button mouse, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, USB and Firewire, and, no floppy disk drive.
Classic or OS X?
Not only has the hardware changed dramatically in 10 years, so has the software. The original iMac sported a version of Mac OS 8.x something or other. Today’s iMac comes with OS X Leopard and iLife ‘08.
Leopard and iLife represent a significant jump forward in what makes a Mac a Mac. Arguably, Leopard is the best Mac OS ever, and five years after launching iLife, the Windows PC world still has nothing like it.
It’s not much of a shootout is it? Today’s iMac runs Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The original iMac had a game or two, Quicken, and frequent crashes. For $1,299.
Without question, and despite some fond memories tugging at the heart, the winner in a knockout is the 2008 iMac. It’s no contest.
One more thing. 24 years ago the Mac was unique and Steve Jobs had hair.