Why iMac G4 remains to be the supreme Mac ever made two decades later

Why iMac G4 remains to be the supreme Mac ever made two decades later

In 1998, Steve Jobs offered the first iMac and it revolutionized the deepest computer—now to not point out it gave unusual life to a struggling Apple. The iMac became a astronomical hit, but after four years, Apple wished to interchange the computer. The up to this point iMac no longer handiest needed to bring in unusual applied sciences, but it also had the daunting job of proving that Apple’s procure innovation wasn’t a fluke.

So in 2002, Apple offered the iMac G4, and the corporate another time grew to change into the market on its head. And in doing so, it created the supreme Mac it has ever made. Right here’s why it silent holds up two decades later.

Extra on the iMac G4’s 20th anniversary

Macworld’s favorite iMac G4 overview

A gallery of the iMac G4 from every attitude

The procure became in actual fact irregular

Very early on in its historical previous, Apple became identified for making all-in-one computers. Whereas most of us companion all-in-one with the iMac, the Lisa, which even predates the Mac, became Apple’s first PC to accommodate the indicate and components in a single case. As unhurried as the G3 iMac in 1998, all-in-ones had been designed round remarkable CRT displays, and Apple needed to fabricate enclosures to cloak immense tubes, while at the same time having a compare immense and providing steady efficiency.

That changed with the iMac G4, which became the first desktop Mac to make spend of a flat-panel LCD, which is dramatically smaller and thinner than a CRT. Apple would possibly possibly perhaps’ve taken the easy route and long previous with a procure that mirrored the distinctive Bondi Blue iMac moreover with a smaller footprint (truly Steve Jobs made a shaggy dog legend dart about that someday of Macworld San Francisco keynote). Nonetheless no, Apple took a complete unusual methodology, with the core components in a domed case, a chrome arm that stuck out from the tip of the dome, and an LCD linked to the tip.

iMac G4 base

The iMac G4 is in actual fact a one-of-a-kind computer. No or Mac or PC has even near with regards to its irregular procure and personality.


The iMac G4 became dubbed the “sunflower” Mac, or the “iLamp,” a name impressed by the Luxo Jr. video brief by Pixar. It didn’t gaze fancy a computer. To at the present time, the iMac G4 stands out in a mundane world of desktop computers—unusual Macs integrated. It became quirky, enjoyable, and purposeful, but more importantly, the procure proved that Apple’s success with the distinctive iMac wasn’t a fluke.

Apple obtained the ergonomics lawful

The most attention-grabbing fragment of the iMac’s procure became the cantilevered steel arm that held the 15-creep LCD. It allowed customers to precisely topic the indicate in essentially the most easy topic—you would possibly possibly perhaps switch it up or down, left or lawful, and also you adjust the tilt, too. In an ode to the iMac G4, Christopher Phin wrote that the indicate’s arm became, “impossibly, magically refined, and preposterously staunch, fancy no different portion of engineering you’ve ancient earlier than.” When Apple launched a 20-creep iMac G4, the arm became stiffened to toughen the easier veil veil, which supposed it wasn’t as refined as earlier than. Nonetheless you silent had the freedom to alter it.

iMac G4 arm

The adjustable arm became strong, supportive, and gentle.


This present day’s iMac is design more itsy-bitsy. You would possibly possibly perhaps possibly tilt the indicate, but shifting it left or lawful involves shifting the complete computer. And the handiest skill to clutch the indicate’s height is to topic the iMac on some form of stand (I spend an inelegant ream of paper for the M1 iMac at the Macworld place of job).

You would possibly possibly perhaps possibly strengthen the RAM!

There became a time in Apple’s historical previous when the corporate allowed easy accessibility to the Mac’s internals in all of its fashions. And likewise you would possibly possibly perhaps discontinuance that with the iMac G4—Apple even encouraged it with directions and a video to point you how. The iMac G4 had two memory slots, one that became deep internal the machine and complex to procure steady of entry to, and one other that you just would possibly possibly perhaps without wretchedness procure to by removing the underside panel. Pass fashions of the iMac G4 started with 128MB of RAM, but you would possibly possibly perhaps strengthen it to a maximum of 1GB. Subsequent fashions would possibly possibly perhaps unofficially be upgraded to 2GB.

(Facet indicate for a deepest yarn: In 2004, I became an editor for MacAddict and labored on a piece of writing that involved gaining access to the RAM slot deep internal the iMac G4. It became a refined contrivance and I stopped up rendering that iMac inoperable. To top it off, the iMac became a loaner from Apple, and my boss needed to veil to them what came about. He became truly, truly pissed off.)

For a Mac that became promoted as a “digital hub” (more on that in somewhat), the flexibility to reinforce became mandatory. Digital hub responsibilities—basically media creation—are RAM hungry, and alongside side more RAM improved efficiency and made the processing wait time somewhat more bearable.

iMac G4 RAM AirPort

The iMac G4 has a person-accessible RAM slot beneath the sinful. The different slot is for an AirPort Wi-Fi card—wireless connectivity wasn’t standard support then.


Finally, a pair of years after the iMac G4 became discontinued, Apple made up our minds that person-stage Macs would both no longer hang person-upgradable RAM or it’d be very refined to perform the strengthen yourself. And now that Apple silicon has the RAM built into the chip, after-decide upgrades are fully out of the ask. Sure, instances hang changed, processors are design more powerful now, and RAM is much less of a trouble, but we silent pass over the times when upgrading our Macs didn’t imply attempting to discover a brand unusual one.

It launched the digital hub

Abilities has stepped forward so grand since 2002, and we hang as a gradual what computers are in a position to doing. The ability to perform movies, tune, podcasts, photographs, or any different ingenious endeavor is quite grand frictionless, now—recent Macs are topic up so that you just would possibly possibly perhaps also furthermore be up and working in no time.

The iMac G4 became the beginning of that pattern. Apple envisioned it as a computer for ingenious expression and to that discontinuance, made obvious it had the tools foremost. The hardware and utility blended for what Apple called a “digital hub” and it empowered customers—support then, there became no App Store, and of us didn’t hang utility available over the online, so bundled apps had been very crucial.

Hardware-wise, the iMac G4 had three USB ports and two FireWire ports for connecting devices, fancy cameras and audio converters. It also had a video-out connector for mirroring the Mac’s veil veil to a 2nd indicate. And it came with a SuperDrive for burning CDs and DVDs.

iMac G4 ports

Exhausting to mediate a person Mac ever having this many ports ever another time.


Nonetheless most critically, the iMac G4 came with a assortment of utility that made all of it easy—iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iTunes. It also came with AppleWorks, an all-in-one productiveness app, PCalc 2, World Book Encyclopedia, and Otto Mattic. All of this ran on OS X 10.1, and in his overview of the first iMac G4 for Macworld, Jason Snell acknowledged that “our time with this iMac became almost universally gratifying,” and different that needed to discontinuance with the very best utility that came with it.

A Mac to endure in suggestions

The iMac G4’s procure lasted for over two years, and it became a a success machine. Nonetheless when it came time to reinforce the Mac to the PowerPC G5 processor, the corporate hang to interchange the computer’s procure to greater accommodate the cooling wants of the unusual processor. That’s when Apple made up our minds to head with the procure that’s silent in spend this day.

The iMac G4 is also long long previous, but 20 years later, it’s no longer forgotten. Apple’s designs at the present time are quite protected when put next with the iMac G4, but perhaps someday Apple will discover a contrivance to threat all of it on product that’s in actual fact at the intersection of technology and liberal arts with the ingenuity and creativity it mustered up lawful two decades ago.

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Roman has lined technology since the early 1990s. His profession started at MacUser, and he’s labored for MacAddict, Mac|Existence, and TechTV.

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January 10, 2022