Welcome back to the Vault
Which actually makes no sense, it’s not even a vault.
It’s my basement.
My name is Matt Mutch
I am a computer enthusiast.
And today let’s go back.
I don’t necessarily miss the iMac G3. It’s here. I can see it any time I want. I miss what the iMac G3 was.
Like so many computers from long ago, when times were different and so was I, the iMac line from the original bondi blue G3 well into the aluminum Intel iMacs, were always exciting. What was Apple doing for us, the everyman? What magical package were they carefully crafting that promised to literally make our dreams come true?
Probably a decade and a half after its relevance, I got to get an iMac G3—the 500 MHz Graphite Special Edition DV model. This was the kind of thing of which you tore magazine ads out and taped them to your bedroom walls.
Wait… you guys… no? Completely unrelatable?
You preferred what?
That sounds like a topic for another time.
In an era where more American households than you might expect had available video cameras—because what middle class family didn’t think it was completely acceptable to shell out for a high-end consumer model just for dance recitals, softball games, or graduations? The digital video revolution was a pretty big deal. And Apple ushered it in, suddenly providing a way to archive, edit, and distribute family movies in ways far beyond aunts and uncles coming over and watching on the living room TV with a frightening nest of cables bridging camcorder to confusing red, white, and yellow jacks on the back of the set.
Run the tape. Fire up iMovie. Slice. Splice. Add a song.
And remember, the iMac was Jeff Goldblum endorsed. So…
I still remember how amazing it was when it launched. Even in spite of physically similar models coming out on an almost annual cycle.
I remember how exciting it was that my close friends’ father actually got one. No one in my family, of course; we were already committed to Windows, brutal as that was at the time. But a good friend had a “Mac 4 Lyfe” family and if I’m not mistaken he upgraded from a Power Computing Macintosh Clone all the way to this iMac which is basically going from a hand held monocle to laser based corrective eye surgery.
This thing was sexy. High density plastic. Two tone. All internals visible but shrouded in vague mystery. You never got to see the guts of a CRT. How were we afforded the opportunity? Weren’t those dangerous?
Single piece. Built in handle. Silent operation. Convex cooling! Never before, never again would we be so enthralled by a computer running hot. iMac? It’s not hot! It’s warm don’t you understand? It’s my friend and it’s alive and it can get on the Internet in under ten minutes out of the box.
This was around the time the world as I knew it was finally warming up to USB ports as well. We’d been dancing around it for years but now that it was the only option, we were going beyond keyboards and mice (remember—daisy-chainable like whoa) to Zip drives and printers and, well, now we suddenly ran out so hubs, too. Was the promise of an ultra clean desk immediately dashed by everyday needs? Sure, but who cared at that point. Tuck the cords away, put the Zip drive in a drawer for when you needed it, we just loved this tiny all-in-one.
It wasn’t mine to use, but I was more than accepting of that fact. We were allowed to see what it was about, and my friend could occasionally use it to chop up video clips, which we’d then see and marvel at.
Edited video! From someone we knew!
We weren’t doing anything like that on his hand-me-down PowerMac G3 (beige).
As far as our young minds knew, this consumer grade machine was incredibly powerful. We didn’t understand it had a single CPU core running at half of one gigahertz. We didn’t understand the pokey 5400 rpm spinning platter storage. All we knew was the XGA resolution of the built in display (1024×768 in a world of Windows 98 at 800×600, oof). All we knew was it had iTunes, and built in speakers tuned by Harmon Kardon. All we knew was the fact that it even had the potential to edit video, regardless of how practical it might have been. That was the kind of power you needed entire studios to provide, wasn’t it?
The iMac G3, lowly and unusable except as a museum piece as it is now, was an object of wonder and potential, just like so many other Vault pieces. It’s why I keep them, even as my seemingly inordinate amount of living space dwindles under my borderline hoarder-tier habits. Some day perhaps my heart will change and maybe the entire Vault will get eBay’d, memories and nostalgia be damned.
But today is not that day.
Got an old computer or a new computer you like or hate or are indifferent to and want to talk about it? Wearing rose colored glasses to make your cool, smokey iMac look a little prettier?
I’m @geekadematt on Twitter and this has been
Into the Vault – iMac G3 DV SE
The iMac G3 DV SE launched in the summer of 2000 sporting the iconic “gumdrop” style iMac body in either “snow” or “graphite”. It sported a 500 MHz PowerPC G3 750 CPU and at the time I believe it possessed a whopping 128 MB of PC100 Single Data Rate RAM, which for clarity is not a typo – Megabytes, not Gigabytes. It handled storage with a 30 GB rotational hard drive and a slot-loading DVD-ROM drive. Graphics ran through the ATI Rage 128 Pro which if we’re honest with ourselves was never good but it drove the 15” CRT display so it’s what we dealt with. The internet was open to us through the 56k v.90 model and 10/100 Fast Ethernet built in, and it had the relatively novel 802.11b wireless Wifi networking under the Airport brand name. Most critically of all were the twin Firewire 400 ports, allowing high speed external storage and most incredibly, digital video import and export. It also featured built in anti-theft protection since the damn thing was 35 lbs.