A brief history of the Apple iPod
It’s hard to believe that the Apple iPod has been around for nearly a decade now, but in that time, it has revolutionised the way we buy, collect, archive and listen to music.
Ten years ago, a playlist was something a radio DJ compiled; a dock was where a cargo ship was unloaded; and most music was bought in physical formats with pre-determined running orders. MP3 players were available, but their functionality and capacity were relatively limited; and many people still used old portable CD players that were likely to skip.
Development of the iPod
The first iPod, developed in-house under the guidance of Apple boss Steve Jobs from an independently-produced prototype, had a 5GB hard-drive memory and long-life lithium-polymer batteries when it made its debut in late 2001.
Most notably, however, it did not have push-button controls, but a unique click-wheel which allowed the user to scroll through a series of menus to select songs by genre, artist or song, and then build up a bespoke sequence. No longer did you have to listen to an album in a set order ‘ or even to the whole album, filler tracks and all.
At this stage, the iPod worked only in sync with Apple computers and software, but a wide aftermarket range of accessories and options quickly grew. Independent developers came up with software to enable the loading of music onto an iPod via Windows, and thus Apple introduced integral PC compatibility by the time the second-generation 20GB model (with solid-state clickwheel) was launched in summer 2002.
Practical devices offered included FM radio transmitters, which broadcast your iPod over an in-car stereo, and a wide choice of speaker docks, chargers and connectors. The iPod also doubled as a data storage device.
The third-generation (G3) iPod of spring 2003 had all-new lithium-ion batteries, USB dock connections, and capacities of up to 40GB.
The launch of the iTunes store brought a whole new legal way of buying and downloading music, song by song, and in 2004, the smaller, cheaper iPod mini made iPod ownership more accessible.
The G4 iPod was a little smaller and lighter, and the range diversified with the addition of the iPod photo ‘ with colour display ‘ and iPod shuffle, which played songs in a random order from its flash-based storage.
The iPod mini was succeeded by the iPod nano, and the fifth-generation iPod (late 2005) came with up to 60GB, video capability ‘ and black, as well as the classic white, casing.
In the last five years, the iPod has rather been overshadowed by first the internet-enabled iPod Touch and then the iPhone, which both double as music players.
The hard-drive iPod ‘ which has undergone a series of further upgrades and enhancements ‘ has thus been renamed iPod classic, and it is sold alongside the continuing iPods shuffle and nano.
With up to 160GB available for serious music collectors, the iPod still has much to offer ‘ especially in combination with a set of serious speakers. In its tenth year of production, it remains an iconic product and a great way to store, enjoy and share your favourite sounds.