Jony Ive Introducing Flat Panel Displays in 1997

The long arc of flat panel display design at Apple.

In 1997 at WWDC’97, Jony gave a presentation regarding the design process at Apple, and even briefly talks about eMate and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Which, at the time was only released only 3 months prior and featured a relatively new design and integrated LCD panel. Despite the executive finish, and abysmal sales numbers, this computer was closer to modern iMac’s than any Macintosh that came before it.

Next, Phil Schiller, invites Jony to talk a bit more in-depth, a bit more candidly about something that they’ve been exploring in the Design Labs at Apple. It really goes the extra mile in providing design context for the coming years, as Apple would release the G3 in 1998, the first Mac produced under Steve Jobs since his return to Apple as CEO. It even further provides context for the engineering feat that Apple undertook to produce the remarkable, love-able iMac G4. But, what I really love about this clip, is how Jony basically unveils the long arc of design iterations at Apple — years of iterating, that ultimately led to the creation of the Pro Display XDR.

I got a real chuckle over the reveal here (timestamp of clip is 37:07–39:03):

Here’s a transcript of the clip:

One of the things, that if you take a moment, think about your own personal working or computer environment.

Think about how you configured your desk, think about the furniture you use. Think about the way that you work, and I will contend that the issues relating to CRTs sort of size and weight that actually dictated a lot of your use. How would it be different if you had a product like this [Jony lifts CRT monitor up to reveal a flat panel display]. So this is uh, obviously a modular flat panel display, it has the equivalent of a 17inch CRT, sort of active area, depth of viewing. Um, one of the uh, one of the obvious things about it is it’s sort of (light?) to see things move around. The actual base, the stand for this thing actually houses a cunningly designed spring loaded mechanism which means the effective weight of the displays is one pound. So you can actually adjust the height of the product and the angle of the product with one finger. You can also plug-in to the display, uh sorry uh, the base — your keyboards speakers and so on.

One of the other things we designed, was a different stand, a different base for the product, so you can take the same display and clip it onto this [inaudible], this desktop arm. Now this arm, this arm attaches to the side of your desk or table, and really provides the ultimate in sort of zero footprint, um display [inaudible], you know the ultimate in terms of flexibility. And I think if you went back to your original sort of setup, I sense that this may actually sort of fairly fundamentally, sort of liberate the ways we could work potentially in the future.

Remarkable. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

I wish we saw more of Jony before he left Apple. Now, when we fast-forward to 2019 we can see the full progeny of Ive’s design process. It began in 1997, with the rudimentary arm:

We make a pitstop here at iMac G4, which devolves into the hinge that essentially remains on the iMacs even to this day:

Finally, we land here, in 2019 with the Pro Display XDR:

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