In brief: Microsoft has long boasted that the touchscreen abilities of Windows-based laptops give them an advantage over Apple's Macs. But it seems there once really was a touchscreen iMac, though it wasn't easy for everyday consumers to get one.
MacRumors reports that a company called Elo produced and sold versions of the iMac G3 with touchscreen capabilities in 1999. YouTube channel Michael MJD got hold of a prototype Elo iMac and showed it off in a new video.
The touchscreen iMac was sold through Apple's Value Added Reseller program, in which Elo would buy regular G3 iMacs from Apple, install its touch sensor, and resell them for use as interactive kiosk machines.
Elo installed its iTouch touch-on-tube technology in the machine, which used surface acoustic waves to determine where someone was touching a screen. It's not as responsive as most modern devices, but it's very impressive for 1999.
As mentioned in the Michael MJD video, another YouTube channel, Action Retro, also took a look at the touchscreen iMac G3.
Rumors that Apple could add touchscreens to its Macs have been around for years. But the company has long taken the official stance that touchscreens and laptops don't go together---Cupertino will happily point you toward its iPad line for that functionality. However, there were reports at the start of the year that claimed Apple engineers were actively engaged in a project to add touchscreens to Macs.
According to anonymous people familiar with the plans, the first touch-capable Macs, which might also work with gestures, could arrive in 2025 as part of a larger update to the MacBook Pro.
The late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was completely against clamshell laptops offering touchscreen functionality. "Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical," he said in 2010. "After an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off," Jobs added, complaining that the design was ergonomically terrible. Successor Tim Cook echoed the same view in 2012, comparing touchscreens in laptops with combining a toaster and refrigerator. More recently, Apple senior VP Craig Federighi said he is "not into touchscreens."