Apple has withdrawn its CRT iMac for sale from the Apple Store, although the product will remain available to the education market.

The move marks the end of an era, because it's widely recognised that the CRT iMac was responsible for reversing Apple's fortunes following CEO Steve Jobs' return to the company. The CRT iMac has now been superceded by the LCD model.

The development of the iMac began as soon as Jobs returned to Apple. It's ground-breaking design was the work of British-born former bathroomware designer Jonathan Ive, who is still churning out award winning Mac designs for the company. Originally manufactured at Apple's Elk Grove facility, the Bondi Blue iMac first went on sale on August 15.

Design classic At the time then-interim CEO Steve Jobs said: "It looks like it's from another planet, a planet with better designers."

Jobs told the 1998 Macworld Expo New York that Apple would "sell tons of them", which proved to be the case. He also discussed the strategy that gave birth to the iMac: "We asked, what do our customers want? They said they wanted consumer products and professional products."

It contained a 233MHz G3 processor, 32MB RAM, a 4GB hard drive, CD-Rom drive, internal 56K modem and shipped with the detested puck mouse. It cost £849.

On its release the original Bondi Blue iMac was a hit with consumers, with US store DataVision enjoying record sales on the launch day. iMac became the biggest selling personal computer in the US.

As well as Bondi Blue, the product has been available in Indigo, Graphite, Snow, Ruby, Sage, Blueberry, Grape, Strawberry, Tangerine, and Lime. Two models even took Apple's design aesthetic to the limit - 2001's Blue Damatian and Flower Power iMacs. The last model to ship was Snow.

iMac line-up Several iMac iterations followed. The Revision B iMac supported 32-bit colour at higher resolution than the original release. January 1999 saw Revision C and August Revision D iMacs, with faster processors, and more-advanced SDRAM memory. In 1999 Apple released its first slot-loading iMac, the 350MHz Blueberry, and the iMac DV/SE - the first to carry FireWire ports.

In 2001, Apple released 400MHz and 500MHz models that offered 16MB VRAM, FireWire ports and lower prices.

Apple also modified its DV iMacs in 2001, retaining the graphite enclosure. Later in 2001, it released three more sets of iMac; these were equipped with faster CPUs, more memory and a CD-RW drive as standard. The 500MHz model was in Indigo and Snow. The 600MHz model was available in Graphite and Snow, as was the iMac SE. As all the available units they carried FireWire ports, Apple abandoned the DV suffix that year.

The five millionth iMac shipped in 2001. At the time Jobs said: "The iMac has redefined the consumer and education computer, ushering in several industry firsts including USB, FireWire, desktop movies, wireless networking, fan-less operation and world-class design."

The iMac's success sparked off a series of design initiatives from a variety of different industries. Cars, pens, household appliances have all borrowed elements of Ives' multi-award-winning design.

Interviewed in 1998, Ives said: "Making a loud product wasn't our goal at all. Being different wasn't a goal either. We wanted to make this thing that felt very accessible, and felt very friendly, but felt very new.

"One of the things you notice when people come up to the iMac is their body language. They tend to smile and pat it on its head," said Ive.

Today's new flat-screen iMac offers an LCD screen, up to a 1GHz G4 processor, and is encased in a unique all-in-one form factor, with the screen mounted on a precision-engineered "stalk". And screens up to 17-inches wide are available, with wider screen models rumoured for future release.

Ives also designed Apple's new flat-screen offering. The design concept evolved during a brainstorming session between himself and Jobs in the latter's wife's vegetable garden.

Apple will continue to ship the eMac, a CRT Mac in a white chassis that was originally developed for the education market. User-demand drove Apple to release the product to its wider market. The eMac now offers 700MHz or 800MHz G4 processors, and costs from £799.

Apple made no announcement to mark the gentle passing of its life-saving iMac.