From Apple’s first iMac G3 to the iMac with M1: a visual history

What’s an all-in-one computer? It combines at least a monitor, CPU, storage, and speakers into a single package that tidies up your desk. It’s not a form factor invented by Apple; rather, it was pioneered by Hewlett-Packard with its HP 9830 programmable calculator from the early 1970s. IBM’s all-in-one SCAMP prototype from 1973 later evolved into the company’s “portable” IBM 5100 (a predecessor to the “PC” namesake-carrying IBM Personal Computer in 1981).

Regardless of the design’s origin, all-in-ones are still often associated with Apple computers since the company popularized it for the home computer market with the Macintosh in 1984. And before that, some may also remember the “OK” Lisa computer Apple released 40 years ago (at least The Verge does).

But that’s all ancient history, or should I say “obsolete,” as Apple officially deems its older products. If you’re looking for the true renaissance of the all-in-one computer, it came in 1998 with the release of the colorful and fun-tastically transparent iMac.

Since then, the iMac has become one of the most popular desktop computer lines ever. The design has evolved from bulbous cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitor all-in-ones to versions that look like contemporary table lamps — and eventually toward the slim aluminum plaques on stands that adorn doctor offices everywhere today. Alongside that, the tech inside has gone from PowerPC chips to x86 Intel processors and, now, to the Arm-based Apple Silicon design.

In 2011, The Verge’s editor-in-chief, Nilay Patel, wrote in a review for the 27-inch iMac, “Every year I review the iMac, and every year my conclusion is the same: the iMac remains the single best all-in-one computer available.”

But today, interest may be shifting. Some Mac desktop computers are becoming less appealing since Apple’s laptops are so performant for power users, and working from home (or anywhere) is more desirable than being tethered to a desk. And Mac sales are slumping thanks to less overall demand for computers after technology purchases peaked during the covid pandemic, accompanied by increased costs and shortages of components.

But for now, the all-in-one champion iMac…