The display of death
My Bondi Blue had been sitting unused for a couple of years, so after I stripped its digital side down to its basics, I felt perfectly safe in opening up its CRT enclosure — something I wouldn't dare do if I had just shut the thing down.
If you don't already know, hear this: inside of CRT enclosures lurk massive, deadly voltages, just waiting to leap out of, say, an industrial-strength capacitor and lay you low. If you have a CRT-based display and it starts to go on the fritz, don't blithely open it up and start mucking about — even the next day or, as some say, the next week. One false move and your family will find out if your will is in order.
That said, here's what the Bondi Blue's analog CRT looks like when it's stripped naked:
A CRT's bulk, complexity, and heat make you appreciate today's flat-panel displays (click to enlarge)
I'm the first to admit, like some rural folks used to say, that I "don't know jack-dog" about CRT techology — I just enjoyed opening the damn thing up, taking a peek inside, and remembering the bad old days:
Not that CRT technology is inherently bad — don't get me wrong. There are many fine CRT displays that can outperform many of today's flat panels. But the iMac wasn't equipped with one of them.
Despite Steve Jobs' assertion during his rollout presentation that the iMac's CRT was "an Apple-quality display that we are very proud of," iMac displays were notoriously short-lived and problem-plagued.
The iMac CRT's flyback transformer was often cited as flaky and problem-inducing. Also problematic were the CRT's electron guns.
My family has owned three G3 iMacs. The CRTs on two of them failed. A small sample, I know, but cruising around the interwebs looking for similarly disappointed users told me I wasn't alone.
Flyback-transformer adjustments might help your failing display — or kill you if you slip up (click to enlarge)
That said, the iMac certainly wasn't alone in having problems with its CRT — I once had a an off-brand CRT implode while I was testing it — and satisfied CRT-equipped iMac users far outnumbered those faced with fading colors or fuzzing focus.
If the G3 iMac's display problems had been fatal to its acceptance by consumers, Apple would now be either dead or dying, and Steve Jobs would be out of work. They weren't, it's not, and he's the CEO of the Decade, immortalized in cheese.
And now my office floor is littered with Bondi Blue iMac G3 parts, and my desktop is cluttered with PC boards, wire bundles, SO-DIMMs, and screws. Lots of screws.
I'm surrounded by the guts of the personal computer that saved Apple, arguably jump-started the internet age, helped kill off the floppy, and brought translucency to everything from George Foreman grills to Rowenta Surfline steam irons.
If it were a Rev. A, I'd probably reassemble it. But a Rev. B? Meh... ®
Although Formac has disappeared from the US market, it's alive and well in Europe, with offices in the UK and its home country of Germany.
All photographs by the author
The Mac that saved Apple (and Steve Jobs)
You so nearly got through without your inner fanboi escaping but fluffed it at the end:
"I'm surrounded by the guts of the personal computer that saved Apple, arguably jump-started the internet age, helped kill off the floppy, and brought translucency to everything from George Foreman grills to Rowenta Surfline steam irons."
Jump-started the internet age? My arse. I'd love to see any accurate statistics you may have for the number of people who first experienced the internet or first had the internet at home on an iMac. I'd be prepared to make a healthy wager that the true figure is vanishingly small.
Helped kill off the floppy I can't really sit still for either. Yes it helped but so did about a billion other factors. Claiming the iMac was significant is like trying to take credit for keeping the worlds trees alive because *I* produce CO2. The iMac is way down the list behind CD-R, CD-RW, freefalling drive prices, USB memory sticks, software bloat etc.
You probably deliberately left out the 'i'. We're into our second decade of marketing wonks insisting that anything can be cool if you put an 'i' in front of it. Shoot them, shoot them all.
Translucent everything - oh yes, that's thanks to the iMac for sure which is a marmite thing in itself but you should have highlighted the bigger truth I'd credit the iMac with. It started a revolution in design. We see attempts at aesthetically pleasing design in the most mundane of items these days from cheap radios to phones to, well, you name it. Nothing in a poorly designed or plain beige box stands a prayer. Much as I dislike Apple the iMac deserves a beer for that so here's one.
@Christian Berger re: 56k
It's all comparative.
If you had moved up from 1200/75b/s, through V.22bis, V.32 and V.32bis, then V.90 was fast.
If you were using it for commercial use, then it was almost certainly the upload speed that was your issue, as it was asymmetric and the upload channel was a fraction of the download speed. IIRC, if you did V.90 modem to V.90 modem directly, you could only get 33.6kb/s anyway. You needed something like a DS0 setup, which could directly inject digital signals into the phone system, to give you the 56k download speed to end-users.
Most home users mostly downloaded data, so this was not a big issue.
Don't compare your 20Mb/s ADSL line, or even channel-bonded ISDN with what home users had available at the time, because ISDN was far too expensive for home users to consider, even the 'reduced-cost' Home Highway that BT tried to sell.
I wan my whole household (several computers with thin-wire Ethernet, and then wireless as it became available - we're a techie household) on a dial-on-demand 56K modem for several years, until BT got round to upgrading our exchange to ADSL.
The best-selling computer of all time is the Commodore 64 - by a significant amount.
There's a tendency amongst both Apple execs and fans to re-write history in their favour - Commodore had the best-selling computer ever with the 64, and the first colour DTP machine with the Amiga.
I'm sure we all remember Bill Gates' and his hilarious on-stage USB "demonstration".
Whatever the bitter and twisted anti-Apple-tards might post in these articles, Apples resurgence redefined the PC industry - and that's why *every* major tech company is now scrambling to keep up with them.
A pint for Mr Jobs.
Windows 95 shipped with MSN preinstalled and I daresay other PCs shipped with AOL or other apps preinstalled. So a good few PCs doubtless existed way before your "first personal computer to ship that was ready to connect to the internet in seconds" that did exactly that.
Of course maybe Apple bragged they were the first, but it wouldn't be the first time they made baldfaced lies in ads. See also claims about the Mac being the first 64-bit OS, the fastest PC ever etc.