Of all the computer manufacturers in the world, none is more enigmatic than Apple. From success in the mid-1980s to near death in the mid-1990s, no other company could hope to garner such fanatical support and dedication from its users. Of course, that could just be self-defence on their part… Currently the biggest main alternative to the ‘IBM’ PC, Apple looks set to receive a major shot in the arm with this product, the iMac.
The iMac is everything that a conventional PC is not. It’s stylish. It’s interesting to look at. It’s unusual. It’s stylish. It doesn’t have a floppy drive. It has a built-in modem and network adapter, plus a 24-speed CDROM drive. It’s stylish. It has what could possibly be the world’s most unergonomic mouse. It’s stylish. Yes, stylish. Whether or not you happen to like the style is immaterial – this is definitely not just another beige box. With normal computers, you want to hide them in some secluded box room where they can’t interfere with the decor. With the iMac, a pedestal in the centre of your dining room would be more appropriate. Made from translucent green and grey plastic, the iMac is an all-in-one; the monitor also contains all the computer’s components. It has a handle on top making it easy to carry, and a keyboard and mouse. And that’s it. One box, the minimum of cables (and even the mains cable and plug are translucent green/grey), and child’s play to set up.
Inside, of course, this is an Apple Mac like any other. Based on a 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor, the iMac has 32MB of system memory, a 2MB graphics adapter and a 4GB hard drive. There’s also an infra-red port and stereo speakers. All external peripherals must be connected using the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port, which supports the daisy-chain connection of more than 100 devices. USB gadgets, such as scanners and digital cameras, have been slow to arrive on the PC, but the introduction of the iMac should see the market expand rapidly.
The iMac ships with Mac OS 8.1 and ClarisWorks pre-installed, along with copies of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, plus various bits of leisure software. Did I mention that it’s stylish?
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This has to be one of the most interesting and striking computers ever created. And, being a Macintosh at heart, it's easy to use. But, being a Macintosh at heart, there's less software available - particularly games - than for the 'IBM' PC brigade. If you can live with that, and want a computer with individuality and ease of use, go for it.