Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021, 16:26 Mac: Hardware

20 Years Ago – The First iPod

As of 2017, there's only one iPod left in Apple's iPod lineup. The iPod Touch, currently priced at US$199. The product comes with an A10 chip and hasn't received an update since May of 2019. Long gone are the days of the iPod's former glory, which began exactly 20 years ago. The iPod was inextricably linked to Apple's return to form following the company's disastrous period in the 90s. The release of the mini-MP3 player changed Apple's image in the public eye from Mac to iPod producer and music provider (thanks to iTunes) – all of which Apple profited from greatly.

2001 – The Beginning Of A New Era
Compared to the first iPhones' release, the first iPod's release on the 23rd of October in 2003 occurred rather quietly and devoid of fanfare. On the small stage, Steve Jobs gave a quick run-down of the current music market and its limitations. Apple's goal was to approach the market from an entirely new perspective. Many laughed at the iPod and considered it to be no more than an expensive toy. The public's reaction to the product was also relatively reserved – indifferent even, compared to responses to today's Apple releases. There's a video of the historic but anti-climactic event. However, the audio and video quality isn't the best:

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2003 - The Beginning Of A Successful Course
The iTunes Music Store and the iPod complemented one another perfectly – the iPod's presence in daily life grew considerably, and sales numbers skyrocketed. At the same time, however, the Mac also began to receive more recognition from the public – attracted to Apple thanks to the successful iPod. By 2003, Apple had already released the third generation of iPods and sold one billion of the devices.

2004 – iPod mini...
The first new iPod series appeared in January 2004, when Apple released the iPod's little brother – the appropriately named iPod mini. Despite the mini MP3 player's high price, the product was in such high demand that Apple had to navigate months worth of delivery bottlenecks. It wasn't until the summer of the same year that international sales began.

& the iPod Photo
The iPod Photo was intended as a premium spin-off of the main iPod line, although the two would later merge. The iPod Photo was the same as the iPod classic; however, it featured a 220×176 pixel LCD capable of displaying 65,536 colors. Images were also importable from software on another device such as iPhoto on Mac, Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0, or Photoshop Elements 3.0 on Windows. The device could then portray a slideshow with music, or – using the provided TV cable shipped with the product, users could connect the device to a TV to play slideshows and music.

2005 – iPod shuffle
According to Steve Jobs, the "Shuffle" feature on the iPod was so popular that it could form the basis of an entirely separate iPod product line. The result was the iPod shuffle, an iPod with no display and only 1 gigabyte of storage space – however, it was flash storage instead of the mini-hard drives used in the standard iPod and iPod mini.

2005 – iPod nano
In 2005, another iPod series saw its release – the iPod nano replaced the iPod mini. With the release of the iPod nano, Apple also discontinued the iPod Photo and merged the product line with the standard iPod series. All iPods now had colored displays, and there was no longer any reason to differentiate product classes based on display color. By this point, Apple's public image was that of "iPod manufacturer" and no longer "computer manufacturer", and revenue from the iPod had begun to far surpass the Mac's. Apple fans on the forums often complained that Apple was neglecting the Mac in favor of the more successful iPod.

2007 – iPod Touch
The iPod lineup became fully fleshed with the introduction of the iPod touch. However, sales numbers pointed to a dip marking a slow but steady exit from the golden days of the "iPod era". This exit was one of the major driving forces behind Apple's development of the iPhone; current handheld phones' ability to play music was a genuine threat to the iPod's continued success and livelihood. If every mobile device could play music, there would be no need for the iPod anymore. Apple's assumption was correct. The iPhone's success led to the iPod's downfall. By 2014, the iPod classic had already left the lineup, followed by the iPod nano and shuffle in 2017.

An Interesting Find – Prototypes Of The First iPod
On the iPod's 20th birthday, software producer "Panic" released several photos of one of the iPod's first prototypes. The images are of a functional concept, which would later see a complete redesign in preparation for a market release. The photos provide a good idea of what Apple engineers had to work with at the time before adapting the technology to fit into the now well-known housing of the iPod classic.



The slogan "1,000 songs in your pocket" didn't apply to the developer prototype. The massive housing required a carry bag. Interestingly enough, the prototype is from September 2001, only a few weeks older than the first model shown on stage. This is in line with Apple's long term confidentiality policy, designed to keep its employees in the dark for as long as possible concerning what end product they're working on.

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