So, farewell then, original iMac


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Apple's original iMac passed away last night quietly in a home for retired computers aka the AppleStore for Education. It was nearly five years old.

Hailed at its birth in May 1998 as the reincarnation of the first, all-in-one Mac, the iMac re-established Apple's reputation as an industry innovator. All-in-one computers were nothing new. Neither were machines with colour cases, but the iMac not only revived Apple's fortunes but also started a new trend in PC design and made a 'name' out of little-known Brit designer Jonathan Ive.

Numerous legal battles with knock-off merchants followed as Apple sought to protect its fragile recovery from iMac imitators, including eMachines and Future Power.

The first, 'bondi blue' iMac was a hit, quickly becoming the US' best-selling consumer computer, but the masterstroke of re-releasing the machine not only in one new colour but half a dozen was a stroke of marketing genius Apple has yet to repeat, least of all with the iMac's second generation.

The need to keep ahead - to keep offering newer, more colourful iMacs - soon got the better of the computer's manufacturer, and later incarnations of the iMac never quite caught the buying public's fancy as much as that second batch, codenamed Life Saver. Even Apple's brief foray into the world of custom mouldings - creating the infamous 'flower power' and 'blue dalmatian' iMacs - while brilliant from a materials science perspective nevertheless proved unpopular with consumers, and they were quickly replaced.

Ironically, while the iMac-styled iBook was eventually replaced with a far more popular design, the iBook-styled second-generation iMac simply hasn't garnered as much affection as its predecessor.

If proof were needed, look at the interest in the original iMac's cousin, the eMac. An iMac with a 17in had been rumoured to be sitting in Apple's labs almost as long as the iMac has been available to buy. But it never emerged, until Apple dusted it off to target educators who didn't want kids breaking angle-poise iMacs (or to have to pay the premium the new machine commanded). The eMac was born, and was soon offered to consumers too.

Following the release of the eMac, the original iMac was quietly retired, while stocks wound down. A few are said to remain, offered only to teachers and lecturers looking for a cut-price, good-looking workhorse.

The original iMac will be laid to rest at a private ceremony to be held at a Cupertino landfill site. Apple requests that non-family members do not send flowers (power or otherwise). ®


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