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iMac: A Network Computer that Works?

Over the past couple years some computer "visionaries" have been saying the days of the stand alone computer are dead. In the future, everyone will have a "network computer," an NC instead of a PC. It will not have a hard drive, or floppy drive, or modem, or any other peripherals. Programs will be loaded into the machine across a network from a server. By getting rid of the floppy drive and hard drive (and modems and other unnecessaries), the world will be made ever so much easier for network managers.

The response, from users and many others, has been something akin to "Are you nuts?" In their eyes, the NC is just a thinly disguised computer terminal, the server a thinly disguised mainframe, and the entire concept a not very thinly disguised attempt to bring back the Computer Gods of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when access to computer power was in the hands of a remote, all-powerful priesthood, responsive not to users but to accountants.

Most definitely, the iMac is not an NC: it is richly endowed with lots of hard drive space, a fast CD-ROM drive, stereo surround-sound speaker system, modem, 3D video support and more. But it isn't "more of the same," either: there is no built-in floppy because, quite frankly, the days of the floppy are over. Instead, it comes with a 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port, for screaming fast access to the world, and a high-speed infrared port, for fast access to more "personal" needs, like printers.

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iMac as Network Computer

Yes, it weighs more than twice as much as a 1984 Macintosh, but the iMac still isn't very big. It is almost infinitely faster, far more useful, and slightly more than half the cost.
Photo by Lawrence I. Charters

Revised May 25, 1998 Lawrence I. Charters
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