The big question swirling around the computer industry in 1997 was not if but when Apple would declare bankruptcy. The company had been hemorrhaging cash every quarter since 1995 [source: Apple]. Steve Jobs had a gift for seeing the market in a way few others can, and he thought the industry was ripe for a computer with some style. That machine, as it turned out, also had the power to save the flailing company.
Reaction to the iMac was initially mixed. Performance tests compared to PCs weren't impressive [source: Silvius]. But that's missing the point. Apple had a reputation for long-term reliability for its machines, and now it had style too -- something PCs lacked. And Apple was betting that consumers would realize how much they wanted style when they saw the iMac.
The iMac was clean and symmetrical. It had no need for most external power cords and connections. Its components resided inside a colorful and curvy case. They say looks aren't everything, but Apple suddenly made the personal computer something it had never really been before -- visually appealing.
One component of the original iMac that didn't catch on so well (except, ironically, as an example of bad design) was the small, round single-buttoned mouse that came with it. Cute? Perhaps. But most were happy when they dropped that mouse design. It was too small for most users to rest their hands comfortably upon it, and its circular design made it difficult to orient properly.
The original iMac also made virtue out of vice by speeding up the death of the 3.5" floppy disk drive. Apple saved internal space by eliminating the component, but annoyed many users until alternative storage tools became more popular.
Obviously, many found life without a floppy drive and dealing with that pesky puck-shaped mouse worth it just to have a stylish computer on their desk. Translucent design was suddenly everywhere [source: Edwards]. Even putting a lowercase "i" in front of random words took off in ways few predicted.
Apple not only survived, it gained strength. But the computer industry kills off those who try to rest on their laurels, so the iMac has seen several revisions through the years. Let's take a trip down Memory Lane to review the iMacs of Christmases past.