Mac in time: 30 years of Apple's legendary PC

The original Bondi Blue iMac

The original 'Bondi Blue' iMac

1999 − G4 speeds ahead

The iMac gets faster and becomes available in more enticing colours. It's joined by the bondi blue Power Mac, which includes G3 PowerPC processors running up to 450MHz. Apple also introduces a new range of G3 laptops, including the toilet seat-shaped iBook. The biggest surprise is the Power Mac G4 tower, which Apple calls the 'world's first desktop supercomputer'. Finally, Apple announces AirPort, the first 802.11b Wi-Fi router and Mac OS X Server − the world's first taste of a major leap in the Mac user interface.

2000 − OS X shows its face

Steve Jobs heralds the consumer version of Mac OS X, with the first betas appearing at the end of the year. Ultimately, it looks good, but lacks features and is too slow. It is, however, very different from System 9. Apple's existing Mac products − the iMac, iBook, Power Mac and PowerBook − get speed bumps and colour changes, rather than anything revolutionary. There's also the launch of the Power Mac G4 Cube − a headless Mac that harks back to Steve Jobs' days at NeXT. It's a flop as it is too expensive and suffers from cracks in the casing.

The G4 Cube suffered from a poor quality finish but it looked cool

The G4 Cube suffered from a poor quality finish, but it looked cool

2001 − The spinning beach ball era

Apple ships Mac OS X 10.1, featuring the Aqua colour scheme, use of translucency and missing features. It's still very slow and the 'spinning beach ball of death' quickly becomes a familiar phrase in a Mac user's vocabulary. From a design point of view it's Apple's Windows Vista − all style and substance that was too slow to actually use.

Apple also reveals a totally new design for its laptops, with the PowerBook packing a 15-inch widescreen display and G4 CPU into a 1-inch-thick titanium case. The first iBooks make their debut, but the revamped iMac is a disaster: its patterned Blue Dalmation and Flower Power case designs keep buyers away. Finally, Apple releases a 5GB music player called the iPod, while Microsoft launches the still-trundling Windows XP.

Flower power

The flower power iMac. Horrendous

2002 − The OS X update cadence takes off

Apple launches a revamped version of the iMac with semi-spherical base and a flat panel display that 'floats' on a cantilevered chrome arm. It also shows off new consumer iBooks, revamped G4 Power Macs and the eMac, which is aimed at schools. OS X 10.2 Jaguar also comes into the fray, offering 150 new features and a long-awaited speed boost.

2003 − A complete refresh

Apple kills off the Mac OS Classic mode and revamps the entire Mac line: iBooks, PowerBooks, Power Mac G4 towers, the iMac and the eMac. A major speed boost also arrives with the Power Mac G5 in June. It has two 64-bit PowerPC G5 processors from IBM running at 2.0GHz apiece. The iPod hits 40GB and is accompanied by the launch of the iTunes Store and the arrival of the iPod and iTunes on Windows.

2004 − The iMac as we know it

The year is dominated by the iPod rather than the Mac, with Apple even touting the Mac as being 'from the creators of iPod'. The iMac gets a major revamp − the floating LCD and hemispherical base replaced by an all-in-one design that packs a computer behind a flat panel LCD − so we've had a very similar iMac design for a decade now. Apple is now in rude health, but it's PC market share falls to its lowest point: just 3% worldwide.

The UK's first Apple Store opens in Regent Street, London. Over the coming months Apple Stores prove to be invaluable PR for the company as Apple desktops, laptops and iOS devices become ever more recognisable.

2005 − The G5 is here, but it can't compete

IBM delivers the first dual-core PowerPC G5 chips to Apple, enabling it to offer Power Mac G5s to its professional customers with two dual-core CPUs inside. However, IBM isn't able to deliver what Apple really needs − a fast, low-powered PowerPC G5 chip that can be used in Apple's ailing iBook and PowerBook line.