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Happy 20th Birthday, Apple iMac: Here’s How It Saved Apple

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Apple's iconic iMac computer changed the game 20 years ago, providing a much-needed turning point for the then-struggling company.

For much of the '90s, Apple was having difficulty trying to determine what kind of company it was. Its two computers, the Apple II and the Mac, was slowly losing steam, and Apple itself was being outpaced by its competitors.

But something — or better to say, someone — happened. Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997 as CEO. Less than a year into his stint, Apple introduced the original iMac. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tim Cook Takes A Trip Down Memory Lane

Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook, took to Twitter and shared footage from the iMac unveiling event in 1998, showing Jobs gushing about a product that would later pull Apple from its rut.

"[Twenty] years ago today, Steve introduced the world to iMac. It set Apple on a new course and forever changed the way people look at computers," tweeted Cook.

In 1999, less than a year after the iMac debut, Apple tripled its quarterly earnings. The demand for its new product was "insatiable," as the San Francisco Chronicle put it.

Featuring an all-in-one design with a translucent blue shell, the original Bondi Blue iMac was an aesthetic achievement, at least during a time when computers were blocky, unseemly little machines. With its release, Apple officially made its mark, as if saying it's not just a technology company but that it was also a consortium of engineers who cared about design as much as technical specs.

It was the first computer to solely rely on USB ports, and it shipped without a floppy disk drive, which was a controversial decision at the time. Jobs wanted it to be a forward-looking device, and he knew that physical media would soon fall out of favor for a more connected world of computing, such as the internet.

Apple's Identity Crisis

Apple went through a rigorous identity crisis, but found footing with the release of the iMac. The rest of its portfolio would be prefixed with an "i," including the iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and others. It would go on to become the most innovative company after releasing the iPhone, which Jobs claimed was five years ahead of any other phone in the market at the time — 2007 — and he was sort of right.

Today, Apple is perhaps one of the most valuable companies in the world. It derives majority of its revenue from the iPhone, but it's easy to imagine none of Apple's revolutionary products would have ever existed if not for the original iMac.

Happy 20th birthday, iMac!

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