October 23, 2001: Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the first iPod, a device that can hold an entire music library in a highly portable package.
The first-generation device boasts a 5GB hard drive that can store “1,000 songs in your pocket”. That may not sound too dazzling in a world where people can transfer a huge Apple Music library from their iPhones. But that was a change in the game at the time!
iPod changes the course of Apple’s history
Just as the iPhone was Apple’s attempt to reinvent mobile phones, the iPod was the company’s attempt to make an MP3 player that wasn’t terrible to use. It used a brand new 1.8-inch hard drive developed by Toshiba. Jon Rubinstein, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, took the new storage device to Steve Jobs and convinced him that the technology exists to create an amazing portable music player.
As Apple’s CEO, Jobs had great credit for the iPod at the time. But creating a revolutionary device was really a joint effort. In addition to Rubinstein, Apple engineer Tony Fadell oversaw hardware development. Phil Schiller, Apple’s director of marketing, came up with the idea of a scroll wheel to navigate user song lists.
The name “iPod” came from a free copywriter, Vinnie Chieco, who remembered the celebrity 2001: A Space Odyssey line, “Open the capsule compartment door, Hal.”
Watch the launch of the iPod
Jobs introduced the first-generation iPod just over a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, calling it a “breakthrough digital device.” He made no mistake, and the launch of the iPod became an important milestone in Apple’s history.
“Music is a part of everyone’s life,” Jobs said at the time. “And since it’s a part of everyone’s life, it’s a very large target market around the world.”
The small white iPod costs $ 399. Compared to expensive devices such as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which seems to be extremely cheap for Apple, around 2021. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $ 618 today.) However, some skeptics have criticized the device.
“All that hype around an MP3 player? A breakthrough digital device? ” wrote one infamous online commentator with an obvious typing fetish. “Reality Distiortion Field ™ starts to twist Steve’s mind if he thinks for a moment that this thing is going to take off.”
The launch of the iPod paves the way for Apple’s greater focus on music
Eventually, the iPod became a big hit for Apple. By 2007, Cupertino had sold its 100 millionth iPod. That made it Apple’s most popular product all the way to the iPhone. The device helped the success of the iTunes Music Store, which became the leading U.S. music retailer.
Nearly two decades after the launch of the iPod, the iPod touch remains the only dedicated music player that Apple still sells. The latest iteration, released in May 2019, comes with up to 256GB of storage. That’s more than 50 times the memory of first-generation devices.
Although Apple may have gone further than the iPod, the revolutionary MP3 player remained embedded in Apple’s DNA. The company’s focus on music has led to Apple Music, which is today the second most popular music streaming service. And iPod’s white headphones, which have become synonymous with this device, have evolved into ultra-successful AirPods.
What was the first iPod you owned? Let’s hear your memories in the comments below.
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