The iMac (1998)
The iMac is the computer most credited with reversing Apple's fortunes, its distinctive looks and playful colors instantly finding a place on consumer desks and in pop-culture history. In terms of specifications, the iMac featured the by-then-ubiquitous G3 processor, but unlike other Apple computers, it featured no legacy ports.
The iMac instead relied on Universal Serial Bus, a technology that offered plug-and-play ease for connecting peripherals and hot-swappable capabilities. Despite criticism about the lack of legacy ports, the USB market boomed around the iMac, and most early USB products came in white plastics and translucent colors that matched the iMac's style. (The translucent color craze didn't stop there; everything from USB hubs to George Foreman grills came in bright iMac-like hues.)
Another controversial change was the iMac's lack of a floppy drive. It was the first computer to drop support for floppy drives as a standard feature, the same technology that the original Macintosh had boosted 14 years earlier. But it did offer a 4GB hard drive and a 15-in. color screen -- all for US$1,299.
The original iMac's popularity had little to do with its specifications and everything to do with its cute, space-egg shape. Suddenly, the computer wasn't just a beige box relegated to the home office; it was a suitable for showing off in the living room as a design element. Apple used the compact, all-in-one design to its advantage, even releasing a "Simplicity Shootout" to entice potential owners who would not normally consider purchasing computers.
Although each later revision added new features and performance -- and a new palette of colors --the iMac's shape itself morphed into the flat-screen version available now. Throughout its life, the iMac has always retained its focus on ease of setup and groundbreaking good looks.
The PowerBook G3 "Wallstreet" (1998)
This sleek Apple laptop was the second generation of Apple's portable lineup featuring the G3 chip set, but it was also one of the first laptops to feature a then-huge 14.1-in. screen enclosed in a lighter, more aesthetically balanced package. Apple even distributed pinup posters of the machine.
Not only was it sleek and curvy, it was also one of the most expandable laptops Apple had ever shipped, containing not one, but two docking bays capable of holding batteries, optical drives or third-party add-ons such as Zip drives. While the left docking bay was designed specifically for batteries, the PowerBook G3's hot-swappable nature meant its configuration could be adjusted on the fly. It became an instant classic.