Apple Computer Inc.'s original iMac -- the multicolored, gumdrop-shaped desktop computer that many credit with saving the company -- is history.

Apple stopped selling the old iMac in its main online store yesterday. A company representative confirmed that the original iMac line, unveiled in 1998, is being discontinued, but didn't comment further.

"When they first put out the iMac it was a critical product," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Consulting, a market research firm in San Jose.

Bajarin estimates that Apple sold "well over 10 million" of the original iMacs. "If they had not done that, they probably would have gone under; it captured the world's attention and put Apple back on the map."

But sales of the bulbous machine have been dwindling as Apple has moved on to other product designs: the new iMac, with its adjustable, flat-panel screen, and the eMac, a bulkier but more powerful all-in-one desktop.

The original iMac, built around a 15-inch cathode-ray-tube screen, started at $1,299 when it shipped Aug. 15, 1998, but a series of price cuts and product updates brought its final list price to $799.

Remaining models can be found in local computer stores and at Apple's online educational outlet, as well as in most of the online stores it runs for foreign markets.

The first iMac came in a bright teal color, dubbed "bondi blue" by the company, followed by incarnations in such flavorful hues as "lime" and "grape"; later versions came in "dalmatian" and "flower power" patterns.

Some of those colors started cropping up on competitors' desktop PCs and even on such household appliances as irons and microwave ovens.

Colors weren't the only unusual aspect of the iMac. The machine broke with decades of computing tradition in leaving out a floppy disk drive. Thanks to the ease of Internet file transfers, Apple proclaimed, that low-capacity storage format was obsolete.

After the computer's release, the iMac's striking design quickly won it a place in pop culture; it appeared on desktops in TV shows including "Melrose Place" and "The Drew Carey Show."

But the emphasis on stylish design may have made the iMac's demise inevitable.

"Computers have become fashion, and that was last year's style," said Paul Saffo, director of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based think tank Institute for the Future. "It's like selling last year's pattern of shoes."

The 1999 Apple iMac DV (for "digital video") was a souped-up successor to the original iMac, unveiled in 1998.