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Throwback Thursday - the G4 iMAC

April 12 2018

We love it when we get a bit of retro kit in and this is an exceptional example of where IT and design meet to make almost art.

iMac G4

 Welcome to the iMac G4 - a ground-breaking PC that wowed the computer industry and proved that Apple could not only meet, but exceed design innovations.

With its innovative “flower pot” design, advanced operating system, and state of the art suite of integrated software, the iMac G4 led a new generation of consumer-grade Apple desktops that brought continued financial security to Apple during a time of transition—just as its iPod line began to hit the market and gain in popularity.

imac g4

It was launched in January 2002 and the iMac G4 came in three models: a low-end version that included a 700MHz G4 PowerPC processor, 128MB RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and a CD-RW drive; a mid-range model that upped the RAM to 256 MB and included a CD-RW/DVD-ROM “Combo Drive”; and a high-end model that included an 800MHz G4 processor, 256MB RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a CD-RW/DVD-R “Super Drive.”

When the iMac G4 first rose up out of the stage during Steve Jobs’ 2002 Macworld Keynote, one design element stood out above all others: a thin flat panel display floating upon a cantilevered, fully poseable metal arm. This arm represented both strength and grace in design—it was strong enough that Apple encouraged customers to use it as a handle to lift the 8.4kg base yet precise enough to maintain the display at a position parallel to its original angle whether you swung the arm up, down, left or right.

And how about that hemispherical base? It too was a feat of engineering, cramming a full computer, drives, and power supply under a 10.6-inch diameter dome. It even incorporated a small, quiet fan that sucked in cooling air from the bottom of the base and channelled it upward through vents in its top—a classic Apple touch driven by Steve Jobs’ love of silence.

The death of the CRT monitor

The launch of this flat-panel iMAC G4 confirmed that the CRT was officially dead as the transition had already been underway: less than a year earlier, in May 2001 when Apple had phased out its last modular CRT display, the 17-inch Apple Studio Display. By early 2002, the original iMac G3 remained the only CRT-bearing Mac left in Apple’s inventory.

The G4 CPU

Prior to the flat panel iMac, the G4 processor had shipped in the Power Mac G4 (first introduced in 1999) pro desktop and the PowerBook G4 (2001) pro laptop. The iMac G4 brought G4 speed to the consumer desktop for the first time, albeit with some limitations: due to a slower system bus, the G4 in the iMac did not perform as well as G4s of the same clock speed in the Power Mac line. Still, the new iMac ran circles around the older G3 model, and it provided enough horsepower to run Apple’s suite of media-rich iApps.

Burn DVDs

It was revolutionary insofar as the iMac G4 introduced DVD burning to the consumer level of Apple’s product lines for the first time.The SuperDrive present on the high-end iMac G4 could burn both CDs and DVDs, a capability very novel in the industry at the time, especially on a consumer product. When combined with iMovie and iDVD, the SuperDrive could produce professional quality DVDs as well.

The iMac G4 sold very well, and it was up there until the launch of the comparatively homely looking iMac G5 two years later. Th G4 iMac received occasional speed and capacity boosts, as well as notable display size upgrades—first with a widescreen 17-inch model and even a 20-inch edition that landed in late 2003.

Despite its popularity, this is the first time we have ever received one from a collection. We wish we could breathe some life into this iMac but unfortunately it will remain on display in our offices. After all, it’s a design that still looks amazing and completely modern ten years later.