De­sign Mo­ment

This game-chang­ing com­puter model put the el­e­gance back into tech­nol­ogy and de­sign, writes Chris Pear­son.

Australian House & Garden - - News -

How the G3 com­puter re­booted Ap­ple’s for­tunes and rev­o­lu­tionised tech de­sign.

At a spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion in Cal­i­for­nia in May 1998, the air was elec­tric as Ap­ple CEO Steve Jobs un­veiled the com­pany’s lat­est com­puter. Ap­ple was strug­gling in the mar­ket and this new de­sign could make or break it. As the room fell silent, Jobs un­cov­ered the iMac G3.

Sin­u­ously curved, the translu­cent blue plas­tic case was al­most lick­able. “The back of our com­puter looks bet­ter than the front of the other guys,” said Jobs. “It looks like it’s from an­other planet. A planet with bet­ter de­sign­ers.” This was a com­pli­ment to Jonathan Ive (pic­tured), Ap­ple’s then vice-pres­i­dent of in­dus­trial de­sign and fu­ture ar­chi­tect of the firm’s sig­na­ture aes­thetic.

The G3 sported clean lines and at­ten­tion to de­tail but, most of all, it se­duced the senses. Even the pro­saic mouse and key­board emerged from Ive’s stu­dio luminous and tac­tile, while the in­ter­nal mo­dem meant one less box to clut­ter the desk.

The pub­lic ea­gerly took a bite of this

Ap­ple. First-time com­puter buy­ers de­voured one-third of iMac sales in that first year.

While the orig­i­nal colour was called Bondi Blue (sup­pos­edly af­ter an Aussie hol­i­day Jobs had taken), Ap­ple re­vis­ited the fruit theme the fol­low­ing year with Blue­berry, Lime, Grape, Tan­ger­ine and Straw­berry op­tions.

“El­e­gance in ob­jects is ev­ery­body’s right,” said Ive. The G3’s fun, car­toon-like styling em­braced the fu­ture while look­ing back at the past, he ex­plained. “I asked, what com­puter would the Jet­sons have had?”

Bri­tish-born Ive in­her­ited a pas­sion for de­tail and crafts­man­ship from his fa­ther, who cre­ated fur­ni­ture and sil­ver­ware in his spare time. Af­ter study­ing art and de­sign at New­cas­tle Polytech­nic (now Northum­bria Univer­sity), he co-founded a de­sign con­sul­tancy in Lon­don and worked on the Mac­in­tosh Fo­lio, a fore­run­ner of the iPad, for Ap­ple. That even­tu­ally led to a po­si­tion at Ap­ple head­quar­ters in Cal­i­for­nia from 1997.

This trig­gered a dream run for Ive, who mas­ter­minded the forms of the iPod, iPad, MacBook and iPhone. In 2001 he lit­er­ally rein­vented the wheel by us­ing one as an op­er­at­ing mech­a­nism, first on the iPod Clas­sic and later the iPod Nano in its rain­bow of colours. Mean­while, the iMac G3 was suc­ceeded by the G4 in 2002 and, two years later, the smart and svelte G5, fore­shad­ow­ing to­day’s ul­tra-slim alu­minium mod­els.

In 2007, Ap­ple de­buted an­other gamechanger – the iPhone. The com­pany sold 13 mil­lion iPhone 6s and 6s Plus within three days of launch in 2015. And it keeps fine­tun­ing this win­ning for­mula. Philip Schiller, Ap­ple’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of world­wide mar­ket­ing, said. “We’ve packed an amaz­ing amount of in­no­va­tion and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy into a thin and light, jewel-like de­vice.”

WHAT IT MEANS TO US

While the iMac line con­tin­ues to evolve, Ap­ple’s range has moved be­yond the desk­top. The iPhone was the most pop­u­lar brand of smart­phone in Aus­tralia in the sec­ond half of 2016, with 1.7 mil­lion units sold, ac­cord­ing to the 2017 Tel­syte Aus­tralian Smart­phone & Wear­able De­vices Mar­ket Study. That’s due in no small part to Ive’s el­e­gant aes­thetic, ex­tended over the en­tire port­fo­lio.

Last year, the com­pany pub­lished De­signed

by Ap­ple in Cal­i­for­nia, a vis­ual his­tory of its prod­ucts over the past 20 years. Essen­tially, that’s the pe­riod since Ive – now chief de­sign of­fi­cer and Sir Jonathan Ive, KBE – ar­rived.

Said Ive at the launch, “We strive to de­fine ob­jects that ap­pear ef­fort­less… that ap­pear so sim­ple, co­her­ent and in­evitable that there could be no ra­tio­nal al­ter­na­tive.” # ap­ple.com.au

1998 The iMac G3’s rad­i­cal look was mas­ter­minded by Jonathan Ive (above).

2004 The G5 housed a more pow­er­ful iMac pro­ces­sor in a case just 5cm thick.

2016 A wa­ter­re­sis­tant case ac­com­mo­dated ad­vanced fea­tures in the iPhone 7.

2007 The orig­i­nal iPhone com­bined phone, mu­sic, cam­era and on­line con­nec­tiv­ity.

2001 Ap­ple’s first­gen­er­a­tion iPod held up to 5GB of mu­sic on one por­ta­ble de­vice.

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