Throwback Thursday: Before and After iMac
For the first several years I worked for Accordance, I found that I spent as much time selling people on the Macintosh platform as I did promoting Accordance itself. From 1995 to 1997, Apple was rapidly losing consumer confidence. It seemed that every time the company was mentioned in the press, it was described as "beleaguered." The Mac still had a large and loyal user base, and some usability advantages over Windows, but Windows was widely perceived as being good enough, and few people wanted to buy computers from a company that might not be around much longer.
Consequently, whenever I demonstrated Accordance, potential customers were invariably blown away by what it could do, but then they would begin voicing their doubts about the Mac. Some would ask, "Isn't Apple going out of business?" Others would say they wanted to get a Mac but their church or school was standardizing on PCs. Still others would say they used to own a Mac but had recently switched to PC. They all asked why we would limit ourselves to such a small fraction of the computer market.
On the other hand, the fact that Accordance was only available for the Mac at that time was a big selling point to the dyed-in-the-wool Mac users. Mac evangelists would use Accordance to win their friends and colleagues over to the Mac platform—especially when they needed capabilities only Accordance could provide. Still, over time it seemed that Apple's struggles were making it harder and harder to get new customers to consider Accordance.
All that changed when Steve Jobs introduced the first iMac in 1998. At a time when nearly every computer was housed in a bland beige box, with a matching beige monitor, keyboard, and mouse, the iMac's translucent blue and white plastics and all-in-one design represented a real paradigm shift. At a time when the typical computer set-up required a tangle of different cords and cables, the iMac could be fully set up with a power cord, an ethernet cable, and a USB keyboard and mouse. At a time when every computer still had a legacy floppy disk drive, Apple made the unthinkable decision to discard it altogether. It seems silly now, but at the time many industry analysts derided the iMac for its lack of a floppy drive.
Sales of the iMac exceeded everyone's expectations, and Apple finally had the home run hit it had so desperately needed. Not only that, but the iMac's groundbreaking design was soon mimicked not only throughout the computer industry, but even in the design of other consumer products. When I began to see translucent blue plastics being used for everything from telephones to alarm clocks to staplers, I knew Apple's turnaround was well under way.
A few months after the iMac's introduction, we set up an iMac in our booth at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). To my surprise, everything was different. Suddenly no one asked about Apple's future survival. More surprisingly, there were no more questions about why we would only develop for the Mac! In the span of a few months, people had come to expect that there would be products designed to work with this groundbreaking new computer that wouldn't work with other computers.
That was the same year we introduced the Accordance Bible Atlas, which was cutting-edge and visually stunning in its own right. Demoing 3D maps on that colorful iMac made a big impression.
In previous years it was not uncommon for people to come into our booth and get halfway through a demo before they realized they were looking at a Mac. Then they would say, "Oh, this is only for Mac? I don't have a Mac." In 1998 it was not uncommon for people to come into our booth just to check out the iMac, then get really excited when they learned we developed Bible software for this cool new computer. It really was a stunning change.
Did any of you own the original iMac? Did you use it to run Accordance? Share your experience in the comments on this post.