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Always a Bridesmaid, but Never a Bride: Hands on with iMac DV SE

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.10.10

This article was originally published on The, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible). Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

 - Eric Cartman, "South Park"

I don't own an iMac, let me make that clear. So, how can I write about it, then?

Well, the reason I'm in no rush to buy one is because I get to play with them whenever I want, for as long as I want.

And tonight, I wanted to.

Out of the Box

I went into the CompUSA tonight (Friday) to set up a G4 display. We were also to set up the iBook demo machine, but couldn't since we didn't have any in stock. I was surprised to find a good number of customers milling around the Mac section. One lady wanted to see one of the new iMacs, so I suggested that I could bring one out, since I just saw that we had several of the iMac DVs and DV SEs in stock.

"Oh, you don't have to do it for me," she countered.

"Oh, I'm not," I replied. "I'm doing it for me."

She wasn't offended. She smiled, understanding my excitement. (By the way, I don't normally speak so straightforwardly with every customer, but most Mac customers are more relaxed and more willing to laugh and share in my giddiness.)

Anyway, as the Apple rep (who suggested that we set up the demos) dealt with arranging the B/W G3 towers (to the back of the section) and setting up the G4 demo (at the front of the Apple store), I went to grab an iMac.

Decisions, decisions. Should I get a blueberry or a graphite machine? Graphite, yes.

Upon opening the box, I could tell that Apple took as much care at packaging and packing the product as creating it. Clear, shrink-wrap plastic covered the iMac's handle, monitor and other vital parts. I unwrapped it and pulled it out, noticing immediately that it really is lighter than the previous iMacs - and I should know, for I've carried my share.

There was a crowd, so I didn't rush setting it up. We each took turns fondling the iMac as we casually talked about the Mac, Apple's comeback, etc. I overheard an Epson rep marvel that Apple's market share doubled by with the iMac alone. The Canon rep asked if she could demo their new all-in-one machine tomorrow. One customer worried aloud about Apple's ability to supply the iMac channels adequately. I reassured him that we'd have plenty iMacs, it being the company's cash cow and all. He was pleased that the Mac section had such confident and Mac-knowledgeable people, to which I said, "Aw, shucks...."

I plugged in the power cable and turned on the iMac. I intentionally didn't plug in the mouse and keyboard so the customers could see me plugging them in after turning the power on . . . Ah the user-friendliness of USB!

I inspected the iMac. Did you know that you do not need the paper clip anymore? I said aloud. The iMac now has the reset buttons (near the USB and FireWire ports) just like the B/W G3 has. Now, I could have just overlooked the pinholes, but it would be redundant now, right?

I noticed that there was no door covering the ports (USB, FireWire, ethernet, etc.) like on previous models. I inspected the back door where you access the RAM slots, but didn't open it (must save something for tomorrow).

Next, I pulled out the DVD copy of "A Bug's Life" that came with the iMac. I installed it and noticed that it ran on version 2.0b4 (or something like that) of the DVD software. Turing the movie, I was pleased that the speakers sound so much better than the previously tinny ones. Even so, I still plugged in a set of Cozo speakers. I inserted and ejected the disk several times to see how the front-loading slot worked. Sweet.

I then installed iMovie, the digital-video-editing software that comes with the iMac. After that, I went to help a customer, and when I got back, one of my friends had a crowd around him. He was amazed at how easy to use the software was. I'd installed the 160 MB iMovie demo files that he was using. He'd edited a video about a dog and a family by adding a transition to two scenes. Without a manual. We noticed that the application only plays with Digital Video - in other words - only for FireWire equipped Macs. We figured that all FireWire-equipped Macs will come with the program in the future, then.

Personally, I think the graphite color was too translucent (and a customer agreed with me). I mean, you could see virtually every part of the computer's innards. Ironically, it was also cool at the same time. I can't quite explain it. I noticed on the boxes (which have new artwork, also) that the other iMacs appeared to be not as translucent as the graphite-colored one.

To be honest, I'd have a hard time deciding which one to buy.

Overall, the machines are works of art - moreso than the original iMacs. I think Apple will sell far more of these than the previous models. And I honestly believe that each of them is a big deal for the money - even the high-end iMac DV SE. The Wintel world erroneously believes that the secret to iMac's success is merely color (take a look at the eOne when you get a chance - I did was not impressed at all). The iMac is a total package; a totally integrated package. This is not Apple cheer leading. I went and looked at the PCs in the store and the Apple lineup beats them all, hands down.

Now, I could have given you a more formal, "professional" review of the iMac. But it doesn't take formality to tell you that you should buy one of these beauties if you are on the market for a new computer.

The current crop of iMacs are the Macs that most of us were waiting on, back when we felt that something was missing from the iMac. You won't have that feeling after test driving one this go round.

Proof, Pudding, Eating

As I set up the iMac, one customer who was there for a while, talking and watching, decided to buy one. I went to get a blueberry model for him "for his daughter's birthday" on October 26 (remember that today is October 8). I joked that his holding the computer that long would be like the fat kid being assigned to watch the candy stash, suggesting that he'd "play with" the iMac so much before giving it to his daughter that it would no longer look new. After some thought, he decided not to buy the iMac that I'd brought out for him. So I took it back - and I brought out the graphite iMac, per his suggestion. I wonder if it is still "for his daughter."

It was a great night. We spent more time than we'd planned playing around with the iMac and the G4 (which is a story for another column unto itself). Technolust reigned supreme.

Oh, and remember that comment at the beginning about not being in a rush to buy an iMac? That is no longer true. Because now that I've played with it myself, all I can say is one word: "sweeeeeet."

Editor's Special Announcement: Did you like this editorial? I always LOVE Rodney's view of our world, as I'm sure you do, too. Well, if you want a double dose of Rodney every week, then you must subscribe to The Newsletter. There will be a bonus column from Rodney every week in the newsletter, so sign up now. Hope you join us - over 10,000 subscribers can't be wrong! [Editor's note: If you have these bonus columns, please email them to Dan Knight - thanks!]

Rodney O. Lain, a former university English and journalism instructor, works full-time as a software developer and works part-time at a local CompUSA Apple Store Within A Store. A card-carrying member of the local Macintosh User Group Mini'app'les, Rodney writes this column exclusively for His greatest desire is to become an African-American Guy Kawasaki. A self-professed "workaholic writer," he waxes prolifically about race, religion, and the "right OS" at "Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow", his unabashedly pro-Mac website. When he's not cranking out his column, he collects John Byrne comic books, jogs, and attempts to complete his first novel. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota, a southern suburb of St. Paul.

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