Power Macintosh G3

Well friends, I almost made this a “Throwback Thursday” so let’s split the difference and call this a “Flashback Friday.” I was crusing through YouTube and I came across this video:

The Power Macintosh G3 was a revolution in so many ways. Obviously, the first was the appearance. This was considered a professional-level computer but let’s say it looked like no pro-level computer anyone had ever seen. It replaced another computer called the Power Mac G3, which looked like this:

This beige look was typical for desktop computers of the day and most people (myself included) thought the original G3 was a sleek piece of equipment.

The Power Mac G3 took the design to a completely different level. Apple introduced what it called “Bondi Blue” in 1999. The color was named after a picturesque beach in Australia. This was really the first time we’d seen such vivid color on any pro-level computer. The case, made of polycarbonate over a standard metal shell, was designed to look like a big computer chip from the side.

These being the 90s, expansion was important and I will say this computer was a dream to work with in that department. One tab would let you fold down the entire side like this:

You could upgrade everything about this computer very easily which was important back in those days.

The most surprising thing about this G3 Power Mac…

…is that it was kind of a flop. Several sites on the internet claim it was introduced in January, 1999 and was only produced until August, 1999. That sounds about right, since I do recall ordering a new Mac in 2000 and the G3s were no longer available.

In retrospect this Blue G3 was sort of a transitional device. The next computer, the Power Mac G4, used the same case design but went back to a business-friendly grey color. While the blue was attractive, designers complained that it was distracting while doing color corrections. Since Macs at that time were very popular with designers, it makes sense to listen to them.

I personally thought at the time that the design did look better in grey:

especially since the frosted bits were replaced with crystal, which made the computer look like an extension of the shiny, blobby, then-new OS X desktop:

Courtesy Ars Technica

Remember, by 1999 the G3 used a 3-year-old processor.  It looked interesting,  but it lacked the power that people wanted at the time. Still, it introduced a case design that is still much better than practically any PC you’ll find today.

The legacy of the G3

Apple continued its dalliance with colored PCs for several years, but kept the colorful parts for its consumer-facing iMac series. Like the rest of the PC world, they embraced silver and black in the mid-2000s and haven’t really looked back except for some mildly-colored MacBook variants.

The style of the G3 made many people consider Apple when they wouldn’t have before and the company went on to produce several more distinctive-looking devices in the 2000s before focusing more on mobile in the 2010s. A focus on mobile meant that the goal was to make the device disappear except for an ever-larger screen. That doomed Apple’s fanciful designs for the most part. The company did finally come up with some interesting hardware in the form of the Mac Pro, but after ten years of saying the outside didn’t matter… the new boxes just didn’t seem as interesting.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.