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Why I Wish There Was an iMac on My Desk

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Why I Wish There Was an iMac on My Desk

By Maria Langer

I'll admit it. I wish I had an iMac on my desk.

Actually, I did have an iMac on my desk once. I acquired it to research the special iMac section in my Mac OS 8.5: Visual QuickStart Guide. It sat on my desk for only 24 hours, but in those 24 hours, I learned a lot about the iMac - enough to make me want one.

After reading this, you'll probably want one, too. And if you're lucky enough to already have one, you'll learn a few things that'll help you get the most out of it.

Not Just for Newbies

Lots of people think the iMac was designed solely for new computer users. Maybe it's Apple's marketing. Or the way the media has gotten hung up on its cute translucent box. But that little blue box is full of features and power that far exceed the needs of a beginner. Check out these specs:

Front view of the iMac

233-MHz PowerPC G3 processor. Okay, so it isn't the fastest processor you can get in a computer, but it's pretty darn close. When you combine the motherboard's architecture (for you hardware geeks, that's a 512K backside Level 2 cache, 117-MHz dedicated 64-bit backside bus, 66-MHz system bus, integrated floating-point unit, 64K on-chip Level 1 cache, and 64-bit memory bus) with Mac OS, you get a Pentium-toasting machine that outperforms all comparably priced Wintel boxes.

32MB of RAM. That's sufficient to run Mac OS and a handful of other applications. If it isn't enough for you, you can upgrade to up to 128MB. (The iMac that lived briefly on my desk came with a free 20MB upgrade from the mail-order house.)

4GB hard disk drive. When I bought my first Mac back in 1989, it came with a 40MB hard disk. A year later, it cost me $750 to add an external 100MB hard disk. Back then, I couldn't imagine having 4GB of disk space. That's enough to copy seven CD-ROMs to your hard disk (although why you'd want to do that when you have a built-in 24X speed CD-ROM drive is beyond me).

24X CD-ROM drive. Speaking of... Use this fast CD-ROM to play games, load software, or listen to music. With the iMac, the CD-ROM drive no longer complements the floppy drive; it replaces it. More about this controversial design decision later...

Built-in 56K modem. If you dial in to your ISP (Internet Service Provider), you'll get fast access to the Internet. You'll also be able to send and receive faxes.

10/100BaseT Ethernet ports. Although the average home user doesn't have an Ethernet network, Ethernet connectivity is great for businesses or home offices. Because the iMac supports Fast Ethernet, too, it'll work great when the rest of your network moves up to 100BaseT speeds.

Built-in 12-Mbps Universal Serial Bus ports. This feature is brand-new to the Macintosh, although it has been around on the Wintel side for some time now. Again, more about this later.

15-inch, multiple-scan, color display. The iMac's monitor supports thousands of colors at up to 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution or millions of colors at up to 800-by-600-pixel resolution, providing a clear and sharp picture. Best of all, it's built-in, making the computer easy to set up and move.

Keyboard and mouse. Not just any keyboard and mouse: an iMac keyboard and mouse. They're color coordinated and cool looking. The mouse is round, probably the only feature I wasn't too keen on. If you've been using a Mac for a while, it may take some time to get used to this funky mouse; you can't easily feel which way is "up" when you use it.

Two built-in stereo speakers with SRS surround sound. The sound system is incredible. During the short time I had the iMac on my desk, I popped in a Pink Floyd CD. The music seemed to come from all around me - not from the little blue box two feet from my elbow. There's also a built-in microphone, two front headphone jacks (no more groping around the back of the computer to plug your set in), and mini jacks for 16-bit, CD-quality stereo input and output.

Software. Good software: Mac OS 8.5, AppleWorks (formerly ClarisWorks), Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Outlook Express, EarthLink TotalAccess, FAXstf, Quicken Deluxe 98, Kai's Photo Soap SE, MDK, Nanosaur, and Williams-Sonoma Guide to Good Cooking.

All this in a 16-by-15-by-18-inch box that weighs only 38 pounds and costs only $1,299. You can learn more at Apple's iMac page.

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