Living that #DongleLife all the Way Back in 1998

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

From The New York Times' review of the original iMac in 1998: Who Said Computers Have to Be Square?

Apple contends that the 1.44-megabyte, 3.5-inch disk drive is a thing of the past and that putting one in the iMac would have made it last year's machine instead of next year's.

Instead, Apple left a hole called a Universal Serial Bus port that allows a customer to attach storage devices to the iMac.

Yup, even back in 1998, Apple was breaking hearts by removing ports “before their time.” And since I can already hear you countering “but it was different then, USB was clearly better and was the obvious replacement.”

Others in the industry have doubts about the decision not to include a floppy drive. ''Those silly little floppy drives still perform a useful function…People still use floppy disks to move files around between home and office, between members of a work group and to make copies of documents and projects.''

Ray A. Meifert, director of the Superdisk…said his company sold between 600 million and 700 million 1.44-megabyte disks last year, out of a total worldwide production of more than 4 billion disks.

When Steve Jobs says the floppy is dead, I'd take that statement cautiously,'' Mr. Meifert said.

And it wasn’t just the floppy that was kicked to the curb.

In a similar vein, Mr. Jobs decreed that the iMac should have no conventional printer port. The parallel and Apple Talk ports that act as the connection points for most Macintosh printers today are also gone, replaced by a U.S.B. connector.

The problem is that there are not many U.S.B.-specific printers around, especially for the Macintosh. There will be soon, but for now, anyone who wants to print documents, artwork or photographs must send them to a printer over a network or pay $70 or so for an adapter to connect a parallel-style printer to the iMac's U.S.B. port.

Yes, even 20 years ago we were living that #donglelife.

Now I’m not saying what Apple was doing in 1998 with ports is exactly the same as what they are doing today, but those paragraphs feel like they could be pasted into a review of the current MacBook line and all you’d have to do is swap out the nouns. Also, previous success using a certain strategy does not guarantee success in the future.

But I do think it’s fun to look back on this stuff through the eyes of people of the time, not our future selves who have the benefit of hindsight.