Apple's iPod: ten years old
The gadget that changed the music industry
Apple's iconic iPod digital music player will be ten years old on Sunday.
The first model, which contained a 4200rpm, 1.8in Toshiba 5GB hard drive for storage, was announced on Tuesday, 23 October 2001, though didn't find its way into buyers' hands for another couple of weeks or so, on 10 November.
Early adopters were treated to a compact player - it was 101 x 61 x 20mm and weighed 186g - kitted out in the glossy white plastic that's now indelibly associated with Apple's music players, though the back panel was highly polished chrome-look stainless steel.
Yes, the now trademark white earphones first appeared bundled with the very first iPod. So too did Apple's compact AC adaptor with a removable pin module to allow it to be connected to power sockets the world over.
The first iPod came with 'phones, a Firewire cable and a compact AC adaptor
Above the novel rotating mechanical navwheel - really the only innovation Apple's first iPod brought to the portable music player market - was a 160 x 128 monochrome LCD showing iPod OS 1.0's side-scrolling hierarchical menu structure. It had 32MB of Ram, enough to buffer data for 20 minutes, not only to provide skip protection but also to allow the player to spin down the hard drive and conserve power. It could, Apple claimed, play music for ten hours.
Aimed exclusively at Mac owners - and thereby limiting demand until a Windows-compatible version was launched a year-and-a-half later, in July 2002 - the first iPod, codenamed 'Dulcimer' during development, used Firewire 400 to connect to a host computer, transferring songs far more quickly than the then commonplace USB 1.1 standard allowed. USB 1.1 would have taken hours to transfer the 1000 160Kb/s songs the iPod could hold. Firewire could do it in ten minutes.
From the first iPod manual. Note the bent-back cover for the Firewire port - this was not present on first-gen iPods
The dock connector, foundation for an entire industry of iPod accessories, didn't debut until April 2003. Firewire support survived to 2007, but by 2005 had been replaced as a song transfer mechanism by USB, continuing from that time solely as a means for charging the player's battery.
By then, the iPod had reached its fifth generation. The original was developed by a team put in place by Apple's then head of hardware, Jon Rubenstein, later of Palm fame. Rubenstein put engineers Tony Fadell and Michael Duhey on the case, with industrial design being handled by Jonathan Ive.
Next page: Dulcimer development
I had a Creative DAP Jukebox, still do somewhere in fact, which I thought was brilliant. For the size of a CD player I had a 4GB HDD and an easily navigated music library.
I then went to Australia for a gap year and one day when talking to the bus driver of all people, I spotted this iThingy on his dash so I asked him about it. "WTF is that, it's so small?!" A few months later in the States I bought myself, I believe, a 3rd Gen iPod. I loved it until someone stole it :(
I then got myself a 2nd Gen iPod mini and that was great until it froze on the ski slopes.
Now I've got a Zen and I'd struggle to go back to an iPod now because of the iTunes requirement. My other two I could sync (or at least send tracks to) with a winamp plugin. Not sure you can do that any more?
Great little device and definitely changed the music industry. Shame it came at a cost. The entertainment industry has had to buy various governments to try to ban people from the internet, that's not cool but hardly what the iPod set out to achieve!
2nd Gen ipod still useful
Still have my 2nd Gen iPod from December 2002 - and found an alternative use a couple of days ago. Internal hard disc died on my iMac, so installed Snow Leopard on the iPod via firewire and ran the iMac for a couple of days from there while waiting for a replacement hard disc to arrive. The iMac was surprisingly useful from the external iPod, although the boot time was horrendous.
Used this setup to update an iPod touch to iOS 5 too.
"iPod" => "music"
I know, a bizzare move.... as if they are trying to kill their own brand!
I know it sounds tired, but I think the biggest innovation was the simple, intuitive UI.
People that hated Apple/iPods always pointed out that Archos and other mp3 players could do everything the iPod could, which is absolutely true. Apple instead introduced a small, highly polished (literally and figuratively) player that was beautiful and easy to use–something no competitor could claim at the time. It wasn't the list of features that was new, it was how easy it was to use all of them.
This was the first electronic gadget that I was able to use nearly 100% of the features without referencing the manual. The manual it came with was scant, at best, but that was just the thing–you didn't need it. The only thing I couldn't figure out on my own was how to get the backlight on when it was dark (hold the play button down for 5 seconds or so, then the backlight stays on long enough to enable it in the settings).
Mine still works, though the battery life is not so great and it mostly sits in a drawer. I loved the mechanical wheel, though it was prone to accidental swipes that resulted in high volume music.
Yep - they were incredible portable discs
I remember from the 'making of' movie for LoTR that when Jackson was in London, working with the composer on the scoring, they would transfer the entire movie every day to London, then write it onto an iPod and have it couriered to him.