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Apple fans brave bad midnight parking to buy first iMacs

August 17, 1998
Web posted at: 1:50 PM EDT

by Jon Cornetto


(IDG) -- At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, while others were busy bar hopping, dancing the night away, or just plain sleeping, some San Francisco Bay Area residents were buying computers, Apple iMacs that is. Saturday was the launch date for the iMac, and ComputerWare, a 13-year-old Mac-only retail chain, opened its doors from Midnight to 2 a.m. for customers who couldn't wait until sunrise to buy an iMac, or just take a gander at the unique-looking machine.

And buy they did. During those two hours or so, the San Francisco store sold 30 iMacs -- about one every five minutes, said Keiran Downie, who manages the store. The scene in was hectic. Some employees demonstrated the computer to a crowd of onlookers, while others comforted worried customers who had left their cars running in the middle of the street, that they could take their time finding parking because there were plenty of iMacs to go around. Taxi cabs lurked nearby, as buyers brought out the big orange boxes. Cabbies helped them cram the computers into the trunks of their hacks.

"We actually couldn't get the place closed up at 2 am," Downie said. "We just couldn't get people out of the store."

Each store in the 10-location chain had 60 iMacs each, and all told they sold about 300 during the sale. Later, during the daylight hours on Saturday, the San Francisco store was still busy, and Downie said he believed that they would sell out.

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"There's just so much interest in them among buyers and in the press," Downie said. "For once the news about Apple is good, instead of all the doom and gloom that there's been over the last year."

Shoppers were intrigued by the machine and the events surrounding it.

"This is the type of tool I want in my home," said shopper Bob Coleman. "It's not like other machines. It's superior because of the Mac operating system. We get more work done on a Mac than on a PC. And the design is a piece of art."

"Steve Jobs' coming back and turning Apple around -- making it a real competitor -- it's a wonderful story. It's romantic," he said.

Another shopper agreed. "If it helps Apple stay in business then I'm happy," said Tim Mar. "This product goes back to the idea of the original Mac release in 1984."

Others felt that choosing a Mac instead of a PC said something about them personally.

"With Apple, it's not all about the bottom line," said Hari Sharev. "It's all about doing things a little bit differently. Mac users have a free spirit."
Late-night Mac fans watch a demonstration of the iMac   

Other stores in the Bay Area had similar events, though they waited until regular business hours to open their doors. San Bruno's CompUSA had representatives from Apple giving in-store demonstrations. And although the crowd was a bit more calm, the turnout was as high at this CompUSA store as it was at the Mac-enthusiast ComputerWare.

"It's cute," said shopper Linda Formosa, while staring at the little, ice-blue machine. "It makes me feel good just looking at it. Using it is fun."

A CompUSA representative said iMacs were "really moving," but declined to name specific sales figures.

As Saturday wore on, enthusiasm for the iMac remained high.

"I'm running on about two hours sleep in the last 36 hours," Downie said. Shoppers were buzzing through the store asking questions. "This is more than a product launch. It's Mac users' revenge about the Windows '98 launch. They're saying 'Lets show them what we can do when we get a great product.' It's been so good to see."

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