On 23rd October 2001, Steve Jobs launched the iPod, Apple’s portable music player. It had been in development for almost a year and would let you carry “1,000 songs in your pocket“. It was released a month later as a Mac-only device with a 5GB hard drive.
Some in the industry weren’t very sure about the success of the iPod. There were other portable music players in the market. However, jump five and a half years, and Apple had sold 100 million iPods making it the fastest selling music player in history beating the Sony Walkman.
If you’re like me and have loved your portable music player (I have 5 different versions of the device), you’ll enjoy these 10 interesting facts about the iPod.
iPod – the name
The name was proposed by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter, who was inspired by a phrase in Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey – ““Open the pod bay door, Hal!“
The “pod” refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. The “i” was added because the company already had the iMac and the iBook.
An iPod was meant to be used for Internet kiosks
Unaware of the development at Apple and that they would be launching a product the next year, Joseph N. Grasso and applied for trademark for “iPod”. He planned to use it for Internet kiosks. The name was registered in 2003, and Grasso assigned it to Apple in 2005.
Incidentally, the iPod name had been used in 1991 by Chrysalis Corp. of Sturgis, Michigan.
Apple didn’t come up with the idea
Though the iPod is inextricably linked to Apple, the idea of a portable music player with a hard disk storage hadn’t originated at the company. It was Tony Fadell who had come up with the idea in 1999. The enterprising inventor started a company called Fuse to develop and market his portable player. Unfortunately, Fuse failed to secure a second round of funding and close down.
iPod was rejected by RealNetworks and Philips
After the failure of his company, Fadell took the idea to RealNetworks and later to Philips (where he had been employed earlier). Both companies rejected the concept.
Tony Fadell then approached Apple who showed immense interest. Under the guidance of Jon Rubinstein, Apple’s hardware engineering chief, the iPod quickly started taking shape. In fact, Rubinstein himself had secured the rights from Toshiba for the ultra-thin hard drive – 1.8 inch diameter and 0.2 inches thick – an integral part of the portable music player.
He was tired of carrying CDs
Tony Fadell, regarded as the father of the iPod, was an amateur DJ. The idea of the iPod came to him because of a need – he was simply tired of carrying his bulky CD collection to gigs.
Steve Jobs probably kept in mind when launching the iPod. During the announcement he says that the device could carry 1,000 songs in the pocket, which “for most people it’s their entire music library”.
iPod design was inspired/copied
The iPod design was inspired/copied from the 1958 Braun T3 transistor radio which had been created by the great German designer Dieter Rams. And here is what Steve Jobs had to say about plagiarism -“…we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas (Youtube).
The iPod wasn’t a success immediately
Though revolutionary in several ways, the iPod wasn’t an immediate success. There were two problems – the device was Mac-only and it was expensive! Third party software were available for PC users but it was only in 2003, with the official release of a Windows version and iTunes Music Store, that the device actually took off.
After 5 and a half years of launch, Apple had sold 100 million iPods making it the fastest selling music player in history. Also, it had such a strong impact on the industry that in just a few years, close to 4,000 accessories were available in the market for the device.
Stealing music is wrong
The iPod could play several digital music files including WAV, AIFF and MP3 (the most popular format at that time). Earlier versions of the iPod came with a warning from Apple – “Don’t steal music“.
Easter egg in the first iPod
There was an Easter egg in the very first iPod – a game called Breakout (also known as Bricks). The game had originally been developed years back by Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak, and others.
iPod Classic has become a collectible item after discontinuation
On 9th September 2014, Apple decided to discontinue the iPod Classic version. Price of the device has almost doubled since then. You can effectively dispose off one on eBay for about the same price you purchased it at.