Jake Harms converts old Apple iMac computers into beautiful aquariums. He spends hours locked up in his basement workshop, giving these old computers a new lease of life. So far, he’s sold over 1,000 aquariums to customers all over the world.
Jake said that he specifically uses 2000-era Apple iMac G3 computers, because of their distinct shape and bright color schemes. The opaque computer frames allow light to shine through them, so that the fish are visible from various angles. He uses iMacs because they’re a lot better looking than the beige and grey models of other brands.
“No one’s ever asked me to make an aquarium out of a Dell,” he jokingly says.
“They go everywhere,” he added. “Every time I ship one to Japan or China, I can’t read the address. So I slap the label on and say, ‘Good Luck, buddy. I hope you get there.’ They’ve all made it, and everyone’s happy with them.”
Jake, who graduated from Wilcox High School in 2002, was working in Omaha when he happened to save an old computer. “It started in 2007 when at work I was asked to throw away a broken G3 iMac,” he said. “As the type of person I am, instead of tossing this beautiful computer in the trash I asked to take it home knowing I may tinker with it someday.”
He then took it apart and examined it, and when a friend suggested making an aquarium, he decided to follow his advice. He tried looking for instructions on the internet, but he couldn’t find any, so he came up with his own design.
In the first year, Jake produced and sold about 50 ‘iMacAquariums’. Realising that his hobby had serious potential, he started buying computers in bulk. He now has a pile of old iMacs in his workshop, his garage, and in his storage shed. He has three-gallon trapezoid tanks custom made at an acrylics shop in Omaha, which he equips with a filter and rope light. He then fits it into the iMac’s empty shell, and buffs it for a nice and shiny finish.
“There’s a mirror effect when the water’s in there that makes it look a lot bigger than it is,” he said. “It looks really cool.”
For people who want to build their own fish tanks out of computers, Jake also sells DIY aquarium kits online. The aquariums are priced at $300 apiece, while kits are sold at $189 each. “As far as I know I’m the only weirdo in the world building iMac Aquariums for sale,” he wrote on his website.
Apart from the aquariums, Jake also builds iLamps from the Apple iMac G4, and eClocks out of eMac disc drive tray covers. He uses the base of the iMac for the lampshade, and mounts it on the computer’s chrome arm, which tilts and swivels. He adds phone and tablet charging stations on the lamps. He’s made only 40 lamps so far, each priced at $400. The eClocks cost $29 each.
“I worked on (the design) over the course of the year,” he said. “One month, I’d do this, the other I’d do that. The hard part was finding parts. I didn’t know anything about lamps. I had to figure out a way to make 40 consistently.”
Jake uses lots of different tools to create his offbeat designs – including forks with bent tongs to unscrew the G4’s chrome arm. He’s also got pieces of wood that he uses for sanding and buffing. “I spend a lot of time on the details,” he said. “I want to make sure it’s perfect.”
Jake says that it has become increasingly difficult to find the models he needs. “Five years ago, I was picking and choosing, but now I take every one I can find.” So in addition to his Mac creations, Jake also works at his father’s carpentry business during the week. On weekends, he does wedding photography with his wife, Stephanie.
But his true passion lies in the Mac makeover business. He hopes to give presentations and tours of his workshop to high school students, inspiring them to think differently about their careers or hobbies. “If they’ve got an idea, they can just go with it and create a whole business made out of something like this,” he said.
“I’m just a guy in a basement doing this, but I hope that can inspire somebody.”