Apple shipped its five millionth iMac yesterday.

Talking to shareholders, Apple CEO Steve 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."

He also reaffirmed Apple's commitment the iMac. "I look forward to shipping our ten millionth iMac in a few years."

iMac development began a single day after Jobs' return to Apple in 1998. Jobs told Macworld Expo, New York in 1998 that Apple would "sell tons of them", which proved to be the case.

Birth of a legend The original Bondi Blue iMac began shipping in August 1998. At the time, then interim-CEO, Steve Jobs said: "It looks like it's from another planet, A planet with better designers."

It contained a 233MHz G3 processor, 32MB RAM, a 4GB hard drive, CD-ROM, internal 56K modem and shipped with the much-maligned puck mouse. It cost £849. There has since been a flurry of different models and colours that have come and gone.

Today's iMac is available in three configurations and costs between £680 and £1,020. Their G3 processors run at between 400-600MHz, and a 40GB hard drive, FireWire ports and CD-RW come as standard. Apple's consumer-friendly iMac is available in Indigo, Flower Power, Blue Dalmation and Graphite.

In 1998, Jobs 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."

Design revolution The iMac's success sparked-off a series of design initiatives from a variety of different industries. Designers of everything from cars, pens and household appliances have borrowed elements of UK-born Jonathan Ives' multi-award-winning designs.

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 a thing that felt accessible, friendly, but also new.

"We have human features on the iMac. The handle, for instance. Differentiation was a consequence of applying our design aesthetic to the product. Differentiation was not our goal."

"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.

Innovation confirmation During yesterday's shareholder's meeting, Jobs once again reaffirmed Apple's commitment to innovation: "The company must continue creating great products despite continued uncertainty in the global economy."

Looking to the future, Jobs admitted that the current economic uncertainty affecting the personal-computer industry is occluding Apple's vision of the future.

"Our crystal ball is foggy," he said. "We must play the hand we're dealt."

Apple sold 608,000 iMacs in the first six months of its current financial year. The product is widely credited with helping turn around Apple's fortunes, and with regaining market share for Apple in the consumer PC market – a market Apple invented in 1984 with the launch of the original Macintosh.