Blast from the Past | Check Out This Vintage iMac G4 Running an M1 Chip

iMac G4 Running macOS Big Sur Credit: Karolis Kavolelis / Shutterstock / Apple
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It’s been nearly 20 years since Steve Jobs announced the iMac G4, with a “radically new design” that ushered in the era of the modern iMacs that we all know and love today.

In fact, looking back it’s easy to see that even though Apple’s latest 24-inch iMac may get its colours from the iMac G3 era, it borrows most of its design inspiration from the next-generation iMac G4.

After all, this was the first iMac with a truly flat screen design, and as Steve Jobs explained during the Macworld 2002 keynote, it was a “technical tour de force,” that delivered “superior ergonomics” by designing an iMac that “let each element be true to itself,” rather than “glomming” everything onto the back of the screen.

John Rubinstein and his hardware team have outdone themselves this time.

Steve Jobs at Macworld 2002

With the iMac G4, Apple chose to “let the flat screen be flat” by putting all the other electronics down in a base unit and effectively floating the screen above. It.

While the design looks clunky by modern standards, it was actually quite revolutionary in an era when even the most “elegant” Windows PCs looked like this:

Although later iMac designs went back to “glomming” the components into the same chassis as the flat screen, Apple’s engineers and designers worked hard to make sure that it keeps things as thing as possible. However, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t until the 24-inch iMac was released this past spring that Apple was truly able to produce a flat-screen design that achieved the same aesthetic principles as the original iMac G4.

An Homage to Jobs’ Vision

While Steve Jobs sorrowfully didn’t live long enough to see the fulfillment of his vision for the perfect iMac design, one hobbyist and aspiring iOS developer in North Carolina has taken it upon himself to breathe new life into an original iMac G4 by turning it into a modern M1 Mac.

Colby Sheets describes his effort as a “passion project” he’s been working on for a while that he thinks Steve Jobs would have been proud of, and in a short video posted on Twitter, Sheets shows off his iMac G4 running macOS Big Sur on an Apple M1 chip.

While Sheets hasn’t yet shared the details on how he accomplished this, he’s promised to publish a follow-up video or blog post — likely something on YouTube if he goes with public opinion — to provide a walkthrough of the process.

This has been a dream computer of mine since I was young, and I’m very proud to bring it back to life 2 decades later!

Colby Sheets

From what we know so far, however, it appears that Sheets basically used the internals from an M1 Mac mini, although of course it wasn’t nearly as simple as just moving the guts from one computer into another, as he had to figure out not only how to fit this all into the iMac G4 chassis, but also work out the connection to the display and other interface components.

Sheets also noted that he had a lot of help from YouTube videos published by vintage Mac collector Pendleton 115, which was a big help when it came to troubleshooting wiring issues, along with a blog from Dremel Junkie that helped him with the wiring pinouts for the display.

Not only is this a fascinating look back at what the iMac G4 could have been, but it could also make a really affordable alternative to a modern 24-inch iMac, especially if you already have an old iMac G4 lying around. After all, Apple’s Mac mini starts at $699, or about half the price of the most basic M1 iMac that’s available.

While the DIY procedures are likely not for the faint of heart, it could be an interesting project for anybody willing to tackle it. We’re excited to see Sheets’ more detailed explanation to see exactly how involved the process is.

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