Read on for a story about how the wallpapers came to be.
The recent Apple event was packed full of surprises for Apple fans of all types. What stood out to me was the release of the first new iMac design in eight years.
iMac fans have clamored for a new design for years and have criticized Apple for the seemingly snail-like pace that the iMac model line has evolved. Therefore, to see the pent-up demand among fans finally released in the form of excitement was entirely expected.
The world of computing is entirely different today than in 1998 when the first iMac came out. Today, consumers’ focus has shifted mainly to mobile devices, a point proven by the dozens of MacBook, iPad, and iPhone models released in the last eight years. So, Apple taking its time to release new iMac models is not a surprise.
Every iMac, except the iMac G4, has been defined by a simple recipe, as Sir Jonathan Ive explains in Objectified.
“What’s inside a product has a big influence if you’re going to try and be connected to the truth and honesty of the internal components. So for example, the first iMac that we made, the primary component of that was the cathode ray tube. And that was a big component, but the part of it that really had an impact on the external surface and form was the display, which was spherical. And so we would have an entirely different approach to designing something like that than the current iMac, which has a very thin, flat-panel display.”
The display, the largest and most important component, has broadly defined the form of the iMac. However, that innovative idea of cramming a computer within the shape of a display wasn’t what captured the attention of journalists, students, technologists, and creatives everywhere. That credit goes to CMF — colors, materials, and finish. With its two-tone translucent enclosure, the iMac proved yet again that the personal computer need not be a beige, uninteresting appliance used for tedious tasks. Instead, they can be friendly companions.
When most people fondly think back to the iMac G3, they usually think not of the first iteration that came only in Bondi Blue. Instead, they think of later revisions available in a whole rainbow of finishes like Blueberry, Snow, and Flower Power. With the G4 iMac, Apple abandoned those color options and stuck to monochromatic colors. This string of monochrome iMacs continued for nineteen years until last week’s release of the new 24-inch M1 iMacs. They are both a breath of fresh air and a clear nod to their oldest ancestor.
I was doing some research about the iMac G3. In the process, I stumbled upon Stephen Hackett’s archive of wallpapers that shipped with Mac OS 9. Most would seem dated today, but one, featuring the Finder icon caught my eye.
It’s a minimal, restrained representation of the Finder icon. The upscaled version from Stephen’s archive doesn’t work well at larger resolutions, so I started recreating the wallpaper from scratch. That’s when the idea of using the colors of the new iMacs dawned on me. I matched the hues to the default wallpapers shipping with the new iMacs.
While I was at it, I redrew them to fit both landscape and portrait orientations and added dark modes for each color scheme. I hope you enjoy them.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.