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How the original iMac ignited Apple’s penchant for abandoning popular technologies

Published Aug 17th, 2023 3:30PM EDT
Apple iMac 2021 Design
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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25 years ago this week, Apple launched the Bondi Blue iMac. The iconic machine showed that Apple had some fight left in the face of critics who were literally counting down the weeks until the company went bankrupt. The original iMac also cemented Steve Jobs’ reputation as a product visionary while simultaneously launching Jony Ive’s career as a top-tier designer.

Aside from the iMac’s distinctive blue and translucent design, the iMac was notable for doing away with technologies that, at the time, were considered essential for PC and Mac users alike. For instance, the iMac shipped without a floppy drive, which at the time was nothing short of a radical and brazen design choice. Additionally, the iMac did away with SCSI ports and replaced them with USB. This, too, was a bold move and underscored Jobs’ willingness to make decisive choices no matter how negatively they were received at the time.

The philosophy that prompted Apple to embrace new computing technologies with the iMac — even in the face of unwavering criticism — still permeates Apple to this day. Especially in the tech realm, where industry titans have a penchant for playing it safe and not rocking the boat, Apple is fearless when it comes to embracing new technology and implementing controversial design choices.

In light of that, I thought it might be fun to take a quick stroll down memory lane and take a look at several technologies and designs that Apple — with varying degrees of controversy — opted to leave behind.

3.5mm Headphone jack

When Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in 2016, it ignited a firestorm of controversy. And with good reason, the 3.5mm headphone jack was ubiquitous across any and all audio devices for a period of time stretching back more than four decades.

Apple, though, envisioned a world without tangled earbuds. Apple was anticipating a computing future where people listened to their music wirelessly. And seven years later, with the benefit of hindsight, Apple’s decision was clearly the right move.

“Now, some people have asked why we would remove the analog headphone jack from the iPhone,” Apple VP Phil Schiller said at the time. “It really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us.”

Schiller was lambasted for his choice of words, but nearly seven years later, it’s hard to argue with the decision. The fact that the 3.5mm headphone jack is hard to find on new smartphone models today — — from any company — illustrates the prudence of Apple’s decision.

Apple says bye to the home button

The home button was so integral to the iPhone user experience that it was one of the first features Steve Jobs mentioned when he introduced the device in 2007. Coupled with Touch ID, the home button was an iconic and integral iPhone feature.

Nonetheless, Apple had no qualms about saying goodbye to the home button when it released the iPhone X in 2017. Though kicking the home button to the curb was controversial, concerns were quickly dismissed when users experienced how fast, convenient, and accurate Face ID was. The transition from Touch ID to Face ID was quintessential Apple: leaving a beloved technology behind in favor of something better.

Apple introduces Lightning and says goodbye to the 30-pin connector

With Apple poised to move away from the Lightning port and embrace USB-C, it’s probably a good time to look back and remember when Apple embraced Lightning and said goodbye to the 30-pin connector.

Apple moving away from the 30-pin connector effectively junked a whole slew of popular accessories. Still, the upside of moving to Lightning ultimately made it well worthwhile. Not only was Lightning smaller, but it was also reversible (which was novel at the time), more durable, easier to plug in, and occupied less space within the phone. The Lightning connector debuted with the iPhone 5 in 2012.

Remember CDs and DVDs?

CDs and DVDs seem like ancient history at this point, but it wasn’t all that long ago that they were ubiquitous. It’s how people listened to music, watched movies, transferred files, installed software, and more. But again, Apple realized that the future of computing and media consumption was wireless. And so, Apple in 2008 introduced a MacBook Air without an optical drive.

Again, Apple’s decision here was controversial but proved to be ahead of the curve. CDs and DVDs are now legacy technologies that kids today have as much use for as 90s kids did for 8-track tapes.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.