Apple iMac was almost named "MacMan," until this guy stopped Steve Jobs

Fast Company has published an excerpt from Ken Segall's new book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success. The excerpt recounts the tale of how former ad exec Segall helped steer then-Apple-CEO Steve Jobs away from a bad branding decision for what would eventually (thankfully!) be named the iMac.

Segall was part of the team that came up with Apple's famous "Think Different" campaign. In 1998, his agency was at One Infinite Loop one day for a dramatic unveiling of a new line of candy-colored home computers. The Apple device code-named "C1" looked like nothing else on the market at the time:

Steve gave us a challenge: We needed a name for this thing. C1 was on a fast track to production, and the name had to be decided quickly to accommodate the manufacturing and package design process. “We already have a name we like a lot, but I want you guys to see if you can beat it,” said Steve. “The name is ‘MacMan.’ ”

Read the rest here. Spoiler: Blame Phil Schiller for the awful almost-name!


  1. I was an Apple Certified Technician during the heyday of iMac G3s – MAN they had problems. Constant issues with the analogue board (that drove the CRT display), quantum fireball hard drives that lived up to their name (failing by spectacularly incinerating chips on the controller board) power supply issues, quite a few logic board (that’s apple-speak for motherboard) issues… these machines also (after the first tray-loading model) popularized slot-loading optical drives, and boy, the things people would stick into that slot. Business cards, pocket change, keys, mini-CDs (that sometimes actually mounted but then couldn’t be ejected) and yeah, let’s not get into the just-awful mouse design… why this computer was touted as revolutionary I’ll never know. The iMacs really only started getting good once the iMac DVs came out – which made DV video editing much more widely accessible. We started selling Sony DV camcorders and tapes too, such was the demand! I also remember the first iPod (which doubled as a firewire hard drive – iMiss when MP3 players were simple storage devices that could run programs too) and the first iTunes, which was basically a re-skinned SoundJam and was actually a fairly lightweight, speedy program…. just reminiscing here don’t mind me. It was an exciting time!

    1. oh man, those quantum fireballs were in EVERYTHING back then. on the plus side, i curried great favor with my significant other just by swapping out the failed board (the computer was an HP, i think).

    2. I had one.  It was super-expensive and terrible. It put me off of Apple for a while, seriously. I had grown up with their computers and one iMac destroyed that love for years and years.

    3.  There’s a ton of these still on the second hand market so clearly they weren’t all lemons. And people hung on to them, who still has a pc of the same era ?

    4. We still have our strawberry iMac DV. Getting that cute little booger was life-changing, really. But the new one is MUCH nicer, of course…

    5. I keep seeing documentaries about Steve Jobs touting the iMac as the revolutionary product that saved Apple, and I always thought they were crap and I hated them. I’m glad to hear this view isn’t universally considered blasphemous.

  2. Meanwhile, on Mirror Earth…

    Can you believe it? Apparently the MacMan was almost named the “iMac.”  Apple really dodged a bullet there!

    -Sent from my PhoneMan

  3. This story confirms an impression I always had of Steve Jobs — there were a lot of ways in which he was arrogant, derisive, and abusive, but what he respected most was competence combined with passion, and what offended him wasn’t being argued with but the feeling that someone else was being lazy or apathetic.  Jobs loved his original choice of name and hated the alternative he was offered, but when an obviously capable person stood up to him and pressed the case for that alternative, Jobs was capable of having his mind changed.  A lot of CEOs in that position wouldn’t.

  4. Glad Jobs finally accepted iMac and props to Segall to not giving up such a great name! Reading the extended article on how “MacMan” was similar to Walkman or Pac-man really showed how Apple was truly able to become its own separate brand with a unique name like iMac.

  5. I totally get that MacMan is a dumb, bad name (too reminscent of Sony’s lines and of Pac-Man).  What I don’t get is why anyone thinks iMac – or anything else in the iAppleproduct line – is a good name.  They’re not.  They’re dumb names, too.  They sell so well despite the dumb names, because they are (were?) outstanding products.  No?

    (I would have called them the Candy Apples, FWIW.)

    1. The original iMac was only in Bondi Blue. The different colors of iMacs shown in the article came later.

    2.  iMac and every other “i” name is brilliant.  It encompasses the internet meme, the personal computer/narcissism meme “i” and tells you which product you are dealing with– “Mac,” “Pad,” et cetera.

    3. To answer your question, no.

      Candy Apple, to start with, violates the brand rules. Makes it sound like a toy. The “i” names evoke the right associations. They are also short and repetitive. What you consider “dumb” is good marketing.

      They were highly influential but not outstanding computers. The best things about them are Jonathan Ive’s design and the name. If IBM or Microsoft were ever that inspired with their marketing, Apple would’ve been swallowed long ago.

  6. I was about to change schools when these things were first coming out, and I remember a really confusing conversation with a friend that was also moving to the same school. He’d visited a few days before and was really excited by the move. 

    Joel: “Oh man they’ve got like 20 eye-macs there”
    Me: “What? I don’t see how that’s possible”
    “Nah seriously, I saw them”
    “Dude there are like 100 or something eye-macs in the world at the moment”
    “Nah, I seriously saw them”
    “But those things are huge! How could they even fit them in a school? The one in Melbourne is massive!”
    “They’re not that big man, like smaller than the computers at Camp Hill*”
    “Yeah, and they’re all built in one”.
    “Ohhh, iMacs, not IMAX… now I’m with you.”

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