Sparky

Sparky

This is one of my favourite Macintosh computers never produced.

During the design investigation (circa 1992-1996) that eventually led to the creation of the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (codenamed “Spartacus”), lots of different ideas, mockups, prototypes were produced. In my previous entry, A seed of the iMac G4 design, I showed one of the first concepts. When, at a later date, the general design for the machine was getting closer and closer to the final result, the Apple IDG (Industrial Design Group) “presented smaller and larger versions of the concept to illustrate how a Spartacus product family might look.”

Here I’m quoting again from the book AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel with photos by Rick English (Graphis 1997). The passage continues:

The smaller version, called Sparky [pictured above, it’s Plate 396 in the book], was designed by Tim Parsey using a 10.4-inch flat panel display and internal components borrowed from a PowerBook 550c (the Japanese version of Blackbird). Conservative in its rear geometry compared to Spartacus, the Sparky design is more complex and eye-catching on the front, with an interesting mix of color and texture, inward-curving surfaces, framing elements around the display and hard buttons, such as a moon-shaped control that puts the unit into sleep mode and a sun-shaped button that wakes it up. Speaker holes below the screen convey the idea of sound travelling outward, which strengthens its visual appeal.

This image and the text above are the only mentions of the Sparky prototype in the book. While I really love how the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh turned out, I find the Sparky design to be cleaner and less cluttered (the absence of a CD-ROM unit on the front helps a lot), and I think it’s a true pity this machine was never finished and produced. The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh design still doesn’t look dated, and I find Sparky to be even less so. It would have been a great next-generation Colour Classic, and despite having been designed in October 1994, it looks much better, more visually pleasant than the later iMac G5 and pre-aluminium Intel iMac’s form factor.

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