The Breakroom

An Iconic Anniversary

September 6, 2023

By Craig Hockenberry

The original iMac in five colors.

The iMac recently had its 25 year anniversary.

In 1998, the Iconfactory was still a toddler. Our first website launched just two years prior, but by the time the iMac appeared, we were on our third iteration.

And that was enough time to figure out that folks loved customizing their computers. Especially the hard drive icons – over the years we’ve made hundreds of them.

Back in the late 90’s the networks we now take for granted didn’t exist. You may have had a few Macs connected together, but it was often quicker to copy a bunch of media to an external drive and walk it over to whoever needed the files (we called it sneaker net!). And forget about cloud storage – we were using 56 Kbps modems!

This environment made customization popular. The first reason was practical: you knew that the Klingon ship on your desktop was an external drive and so did the person who was offloading the files. But more importantly, that icon allowed you to express a little bit of your personality – that drive icon said “I’m a Star Trek fan”. Maybe you even talked about the latest episode of Deep Space Nine as the files copied over (networks weren’t the only thing slower than what we use today).

Then along came the iMac. A computer that looked like nothing else, and we all loved it. The originality of the design inspired a lot of things, including icons. A machine that looked that cool needed a desktop to match!

And as we celebrate the iMac’s anniversary, it has inspired us yet again with a fresh take on hard drive and folder icons:

Retro Mac HD icons fanned out, each in a color of the original iMac from Apple. The caption below the image reads "Yum."

Download the iMac 25th Anniversary Edition Icons

These icons got their start back in July when Talos Tsui bought some plastic plates in translucent colors. While the Bondi Blue colorway was all sold out, the fond memories were still available. After redrawing the original macOS hard drive icon, which wasn’t high enough resolution for today’s needs, Talos wrapped it in the colors of the original iMacs. And when going over-the-top isn’t enough, he decided to make icons that are an exact match of the current macOS folders!

Sadly, these icons also remind us how much more difficult it is to customize today’s computers. System integrity is a good thing, but it also takes the fun out of expressing ourselves with a desktop that looks exactly like we want. We’re doing our best to keep it alive, but there’s only so much we can do.

Thankfully, Mac users have it much better than folks on Windows. While we can still Copy & Paste in the Finder, on Microsoft’s platform it’s a long and arduous process with RegEdit. That also explains why we’re not including .ICO files in the downloads above. If you’re smart enough to dig around in the registry, you’re also smart enough to figure out how to use the included PNG files.

But when it comes to customizing our devices, there is hope! It’s all happening in our pockets and purses.

Apple sells a lot of cases and saw the popularity of this kind of personalization. Software to customize your phone arrived in iOS 14 with Home Screen widgets. Apps that gave your device a unique look were wildly popular.

Download FREE wallpaper today!

This move toward customization continued with Lock Screens in iOS 16. We were thrilled with this new feature and quickly developed Wallaroo to fill this niche with a constant stream of great looking wallpaper.

And now with iOS 17, Apple is bringing us Contact Posters and NameDrop – features that let you share your personality with others. “More personal and intuitive” indeed.

But our favorite thing in iOS 17 is Interactive Widgets. We can’t wait to show you how Wallaroo, Triode, and even Clicker have gotten more personal!

So while we’ve lost some customization options, we’ve also gained some new and important ones. And it all began when the iMac broke from the bondage of beige. Happy anniversary!