Another "This Day in History" post coming your way. This time about Apple's iPod! Looking back to when the iPod was introduced, it's hard to remember just how different the world of computing and portable devices was. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no apps, no iPhone, no Netflix. The world was a very different place.
On October 23rd, 2001, Steve Jobs stood up on stage and announced the original iPod. Since that day, the iPod has changed the way people buy and listen to music, sold millions of devices, and laid the foundation for the powerhouses that Apple has had with the iPhone and iPad.
While the classic iPod design was finally retired, and the remaining members of the iPod line are less important to Apple’s strategy today than they were years ago, it’s still an integral part of history, both for the company and the larger tech industry.
The one that started it all, the original iPod launched 19 years ago today for $399. It featured a 5GB hard drive, a FireWire port for syncing, and a physically rotating scroll wheel. A slightly updated second-generation version swapped the scroll wheel for a touch-based one and added Windows support.
The first major redesign for the iPod, and perhaps the farthest departure from the now iconic clickwheel that’s associated with the product, the third generation (circa 2003) moved the media controls as separate touch-sensitive buttons on top of the scroll wheel. It also introduced the now-defunct 30-pin iPod connector, which would be the port of choice for all of Apple’s mobile devices until the Lightning connector was introduced in 2012.
In 2004 we were introduced to the iPod mini. It was a smaller, thinner iPod with less storage (either 4GB or 6GB), but came in a variety of fun colors. More importantly, it’s the first iPod model to introduce the click wheel, which would remain a staple of the iPod design for the rest of the product’s history. This year also brought the fourth generation iPod, which is probably the image most people have in mind when they think of an iPod: a white plastic front with a gray click wheel.
There were a few more generations over the next couple years, including the iPod shuffle, but the biggest change up was released a few months after the original iPhone (2007), which was the iPod Touch. This iPod offered a similar iOS experience for users that didn’t want to get on board just yet with Apple’s vision of the cellular future. Also in 2007, the last model of the original iPod, the iPod Classic, refreshed the software and replaced the plastic front casing with aluminum. The highest capacity model offered 160GB of storage. It was discontinued in September 2014.
The iPod Touch 5th generation was released in 2015 and is still available today, though I'm guessing the sales are barely a blip compared to the recent iPhone 12 launch.