The original iMac, circa 1998
(Part 1: 20 Years of Using A Mac: Macintosh Performa 475)
I was sitting in the computer lab during study hall my junior year of high school, bored as usual because I finished all of my homework for the day. I contemplated taking a nap in study hall itself, but the last time I did that, I slept through the damn bell and well into the next class. What does one do when bored in a computer lab? Why, we mindlessly surf the internet of course.
Old fart alert: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr…they didn’t exist. At all. Let’s put it this way: I lived in a time where Netscape was an actual internet browser, and Yahoo! Chat was the best way to meet people from around the world.
Yeah, I’m that old.
Now that we’ve established my place in the timeline of history, let’s move on, shall we?
Well, it didn’t take long for me to head to the Yahoo! search page (dammit, I said I was old already, shut up), and what do I see? There’s Steve Jobs cradling this…this translucent, colored computer. The monitor was built into it, a whopping 15″ CRT screen that, at that time, was pretty big. Simply called ‘iMac’, it was obvious upon first gaze that a lot of care and thought went into designing and building it.
And I had to have it. First of all, our first computer was almost 5 years old at this point. It’s seen better days, and while it had a lot of memories attached to it, it was quickly losing it’s appeal in the house. Second, the iMac had a built-in modem. It was designed from the start to be an internet computer. And let’s face it, I was tired of walking to the library every day after school and on the weekends to connect to the world.
Well, it all sounded great in my head. You know how that goes–plan a conversation in your head with your defending arguments and walk away a winner. Yeah, that didn’t happen at all.
I pleaded my case for a good 2 hours that night at dinner with my parents. It was cool, it was new, it could get online, it was up to date with technology…all of my arguments shot down, one by one with the same phrase:
The computer we have still works. There’s no reason to get a new one.
Like a broken record, that’s the only answer I heard from my parents. That, and the word no. Lucky for me, the iMac wasn’t due to be released until the middle of August that year, so I had plenty of time to either convince my parents to see my points and give in, or get a summer job and save up the $1299 and buy it myself.
Every day it seemed, I would go to the library and torture myself with visiting Apple’s web page and reading about the iMac, looking at the pictures and amazed at how well it was put together. The curves were detailed, the translucent plastic appeared to be one giant shell, carved hollow and fitted with computer components, then painted this blue color known as Bondi Blue.
The whole summer was spent with me working, trying to save money for a computer since it was clear my parents weren’t giving in. Well, I also collected baseball cards as a teen, and so I could be found at the local card shop in town checking out the new products or just chatting with the owner and other fellow collectors.
Clearly, saving money wasn’t my top priority as it should have been.
August 15, 1998 came and went. The iMac was released to the world, and I didn’t have one. I was able to check out a demo model at Best Buy. I felt like I was walking into a gentleman’s club because everyone kept looking at me funny and I seemed to be embarrassed walking up to the computer alone. I was the only one in the store that checked out the iMac. Everyone else was looking at the Compaq and Acer brands, whispering among themselves presumably about how I was wasting my time with a dying brand.
It didn’t matter to me. I was used to Apple computers and I knew I wanted to keep using them. The only problem was, I was short on the cash needed to buy it. Well, that is until a few months later when I turned 18.
Ever apply for a loan, get accepted, make your purchase, then wait forever before it arrives? No? Then you’re spoiled. Even though it was just 5 years later, I still had to wait 2 weeks before the iMac would ship to my house. It would be deja vu for me, had it not happened when we were buying the Macintosh Performa 475.
When it finally did arrive, I was the happiest kid in the world. I rushed home from school that day so I could set up the computer and begin using it. I even went so far out of my way to sign up for internet access just so I could use the computer to its full potential. Dial up, mind you. Blazing-fast kbps internet.
I was the envy of my friends for the time being. Sure, they were die-hard PC users and didn’t like Apple. But even they admitted that the appearance alone of the iMac was enough to keep them from mocking my choice. It was a thing of beauty; the only object in my bedroom that had any fashion sense.
For the next few months, up until high school graduation, I would spend a lot of time after school on the computer, learning HTML, chatting with new people around the world, and even learning the ins and outs of Photoshop. I would even play SimCity 2000 and Diablo whenever I had the chance.
I was proud of everything the iMac brought to me because I bought it myself, paid for it, and even paid for my own internet service. I wasn’t rich at all, but I did have a part-time job after school and on weekends that allowed me to afford all of this. I learned so much more on my own with the iMac, more than what I was taught in school. That’s not to say the teachers didn’t do their job; rather, I was able to take my boredom at home and turn it into an all-night learning session.
I almost want to say that thanks to the iMac, I finally had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life after high school. Before my senior year, I was at the point where a high school diploma was just good enough for me because I felt that I didn’t have any talent that would help me survive in the real world.
Next time: Fall From Grace