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The mystery of the iMac's granddaddy: The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh

Christopher Phin | July 9, 2015
I got not one, but two very exciting Macs this week. The first was a new main Mac, the replacement for my trusty 2008 MacBook Pro: A tricked-out 5K iMac.

Another clue is on the back: connections for TV and FM radio. The TAM had the cards for these built-in, which was unusual, and prefigured Steve Jobs' "digital hub" strategy by a few years. Indeed, the TAM was designed in the years when Jobs wasn't at the company, but although the phrasing is different, you can, I think, hear the young (and hirsute!) Jony Ive articulating the same vision for a centralized, lifestyle device in the video below that Jobs would later describe in the keynote address at 2001's Macworld Expo. 

It's delightful, isn't it, to see so many of the familiar tropes from today's Apple product videos--the cutaways to manufacturing plants, the headshots, the elaborate, hubristic language--were in place so long ago, even if Ive is a little less rehearsed and slick than we've come to know him.

The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh was criticized, and fairly, not only for being expensive but also for being comparatively expensive--and for being an executive toy. But that doesn't mean it's not in itself a wonderful, longed-for Mac. It's an utterly glorious thing, a weird, of-its-era excrescence, a bold attempt at making something state of the art, unfettered by normal commercial concerns. Even if it's silly, I do miss the daringness and excess of Apple in the '90s--and the company's audacity and the experimentalism, which the TAM exemplifies.

My new iMac, the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh's spiritual descendent, is vastly more powerful, and has over thirty times the number of pixels, but I love them both equally--just for different reasons.

Now, Macworld readers, I need your help. Before the price of the TAM was dramatically cut, part of what $7,499 bought you was delivery, and we're not talking a UPS guy lobbing a parcel onto your porch. The original TAMs were delivered in a limo by staff wearing tuxedos, who would set them up for you and show you how to use them. I'd love to write another column filled with interviews of people who either had a TAM delivered in this way or with people who delivered them--or ideally, of course, both!--and I need your help to track them down. Did you or anyone you know get or do the concierge delivery and would be happy to talk about it for an article for Macworld? The more voices we get, the better the stories will be, but even one will do! Spread the word far and wide, and if you can help, please get in touch on Twitter!


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