From Beige to Bondi Blue: Changing Colors in Computer Design
In the 1980s, desktop computers emphasized non-committal, neutral shades: beige, off-white, black, and the just-barely-greys of putty and fog. During a time when popular culture included the flashiness of MTV, new wave music pressed onto colorful records, and hip hop culture--why so much beige?
Truthfully, home computers were becoming more common, but the largest market remained in office environments. Neutral computers provided visual unity among cubicles, and masked aging plastic.
IBM Personal Computer, Model 5150, 1984. THF156040
The Apple Newton eMate was one of the first personal computers to break away from the typical form of the "opaque beige box."
Apple eMate 300, 1997. THF172045
The eMate's distinctive translucency was soon echoed by Jonathan Ive in his radical case design for the iMac G3 computer. From 1998-2001, the iMac was available in an array of 13 colors--from Bondi Blue to Flower Power.
View all 13 colors of the Apple iMac in The Henry Ford’s digital collections.
This post features objects and text displayed in the 2018 pop-up exhibition Looking Through Things: Transparent Tech, Fashion, and Systems at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
Kristen Gallerneaux is Curator of Communication & Information Technology at The Henry Ford.