10 years of iPod: the gadget that put Apple in your pocket

21st Oct 2011 | 10:45

10 years of iPod: the gadget that put Apple in your pocket

A retrospective of the iPod

The history of the iPod

Ten years ago on Sunday, the iPod was launched.

And it was with more of a whimper than a bang. The launch event on 23 October 2001 was held at Apple's Cupertino campus for a small gaggle of invited journalists, and not even deserving of a proper MacWorld keynote.

Despite the lack of prestige, Steve Jobs obviously knew he was onto a winner, because he launched iPod with the following words:

"The biggest thing about the iPod is that it holds 1,000 songs. This is a quantum leap because for most people it's their entire music library. This is huge."

Then came the killer line.

"The coolest thing about the iPod is that your whole music library fits in your pocket."

That was the hook that did it – a simple concept that everybody could understand. With those words, Steve Jobs had created an entirely new industry based around a portable digital music player – an industry that Apple would dominate for the next decade, and probably beyond that.

Companies like Creative and Diamond Multimedia were there first, but it was Apple that made the market take off.

A winning design

A great idea without great implementation wouldn't cut it though, and it was also the design of the iPod that made it successful. It was ultra-thin (for the time) and had a huge capacity (again, for the time) at 5GB.

It also had 20 minutes of skip protection, so you could take it jogging, cycling or wherever you wanted without skipping a beat. It was fast, too. It had a FireWire connection for quickly getting your music off your Mac and onto the iPod. Over time, as the comparable USB 2.0 standard evolved, Apple quietly dropped FireWire support altogether, but at the time it was a big selling point.

Back then it would take roughly five minutes to transfer a CD to a music player over USB, but FireWire cut this down to 10 seconds. That's 30 times faster! Even the original iPod's ten hours of battery life was considered 'extraordinary'.

The first iPod only worked on a Mac, but Apple soon realised that if the iPod was really going to take off it needed to have a wider vision – a vision that encompassed Windows and a digital music store from which people could purchase and download digital music with ease.

Nobody thought it could be done, but somehow Apple managed to get all the big music labels to come on board, with iPod at the centre of the whole thing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Join us for our look back at the last ten years of the iPod. The range starts small, expands and then concentrates on what it does best as Apple broadens its horizons with the iPhone and iPad as its new darlings.

2001-2004

1st gen iPod
Released: October 2001

Details: 5GB, FireWire, battery: 10 hours audio
A 10GB version was released later. This model contained a mechanical scroll wheel that physically turned when you moved it with your finger.

iPod first gen

2nd gen iPod
Released: July 2002
Details: 10, 20GB, FireWire, battery: 10 hours audio
The first Windows compatible iPod also saw the introduction of the first touch sensitive scroll wheel to the iPod. Original Windows support was via Musicmatch.

2nd gen ipod

3rd gen iPod
Released: April 2003
Details: 10, 15, 20, 30, 40GB, FireWire (USB for syncing only), battery: 8 hours audio
The first all-touch sensitive interface was part of a complete redesign of the entire device. At the same time, iTunes becomes available for Windows.

3rd gen ipod

1st gen iPod mini
Released: January 2004
Details: 4GB, FireWire, USB, battery: 8 hours
A new smaller iPod that was available in five colours, and the introduction of the first Click Wheel, which contained the buttons themselves.

1st gen ipod mini

4th gen iPod
Released: July 2004
Details: 20, 40GB, FireWire or USB, battery: 12 hours audio
The first full iPod to use the new Click Wheel from the iPod mini. The Click Wheel has been a staple ever since.

4th gen ipod

4th gen iPod photo
Released: October 2004
Details: 30, 40, 60GB, FireWire or USB, battery: 15 hours audio, 5 hours slideshow
This was the first ever iPod with a colour screen. It could display photos synced from your Mac or PC.

4th gen ipod photo

2005-2006

1st gen iPod shuffle
Released: January 2005
Details: 512MB, 1GB, USB, battery: 12 hours audio
The first screen-less iPod. Used flash memory and came with a lanyard so you could wear it around your neck.

1st gen ipod shuffle

2nd gen iPod mini
Released: February 2005
Details: 4, 6GB, FireWire or USB, battery: 18 hours audio
Brighter colours and much longer battery life than the previous version, plus a new larger 6GB capacity.

2nd gen ipod mini

4th gen iPod colour
Released: June 2005
Details: 20, 60GB, FireWire or USB, battery: 15 hours audio, 5 hours slideshow
Essentially just a refresh of the iPod photo line, but with different hard drive sizes.

4th gen ipod colour

1st gen iPod nano
Released: September 2005
Details: 1, 2, 4GB, USB (FireWire for charging only), battery: 14 hours audio, 4 hours slideshow
Replaced the iPod mini range entirely, which caused uproar at the time. Using flash memory, the nano came in black or white only. The 1GB model was introduced later.

1st gen ipod nano

5th gen iPod
Released: October 2005
Details: 30, 60, 80GB, USB (FireWire for charging only), battery: 14 hours audio, 2 hours video (for the 30GB model), 20 audio, 3/6.5 video (for 60/80GB)
A complete redesign that also brought video playback to the iPod for the first time. In September 2006, minor updates were made: brighter screens, more memory, a search feature, but the visual look stayed the same.

5th gen ipod

2nd gen iPod nano
Released: September 2006
Details: 2, 4, 8GB, USB (FireWire for charging only), battery: 24 hours audio, 5 hours slideshow
The iPod nano got a colourful refresh. The new anodised aluminium casing came in six different colours.

2nd gen ipod nano

2nd gen iPod shuffle
Released: September 2006
Details: 1GB, 2GB, USB, battery: 12 hours audio
Completely redesigned with clip-on case. Four colour options were added later and the colours have so far been refreshed twice.

2nd gen ipod shuffle

2007-now

6th gen iPod classic
Released: September 2007
Details: 80, 160GB, USB (FireWire charging only), battery: 30 hours audio, 5 hours video (80GB model), 40 hours audio, 7 hours video (160GB)
The first iPod to have the 'classic' suffix, and the largest capacity so far.

6th gen ipod classic

1st gen iPod touch
Released: September 2007
Details: 8, 16, 32GB, USB (FireWire for charging only), battery: 22 hours audio, 5 hours video
Originally only in 8GB and 16GB, with the 32GB being added later. The first iPod with WiFi and multi-touch.

1st gen ipod touch

3rd gen iPod nano
Released: September 2007
Details: 4, 8GB, USB (FireWire charging only), battery: 24 hours audio, 5 hours video
Completely new design with a 2-inch QVGA screen, video capability and new colours.

3rd gen ipod nano

Revision of 6th gen iPod classic
Released: September 2008
Details: 120GB, USB (FireWire for charging only), battery: 36 hours audio, 6 hours video
New greener build materials and audio-in capability. Only available in a single 120GB memory size.

7th gen ipod classic

2nd gen iPod touch
Released: September 2008
Details: 8, 16, 32GB, USB, battery: 36 hours audio, 6 hours video
New speaker and volume buttons added, plus it became even thinner than before.

2nd gen ipod touch

4th gen iPod nano
Released: September 2008
Details: 8, 16GB, USB, battery: 24 hours audio, 4 hours video
A new design in nine different colours and a built-in accelerometer.

4th gen ipod nano

3rd gen iPod shuffle
Released: March 2009
Details: 4GB, USB, battery: 10 hours audio
Another redesign reduced size even further by moving the controls to the earphone cable.

3rd gen ipod shuffle

Further revision of 6th gen iPod classic
Released: September 2009
Details: 160GB
New version replaces 120GB version with larger 160GB capacity single platter drive amid rumours the classic was going to be killed off - these have continued to this day, but the 160GB version is still going strong. Despite its age, the classic remains till the player to beat for those with large collections.

History of the ipod

3rd gen iPod touch
Released: September 2009
Details: 32, 64GB, USB, 30 hours audio, 6 hours video
Updated with upgraded graphics and other hardware from the iPhone 3GS. Also includes Voice Control support remote control headphones. 2nd gen 8GB model still available.

History of the ipod

5th gen iPod nano
Released: September 2009
Details: 8, 16GB, USB, battery: 24 hours audio, 5 hours video
Capacities remain the same but a new video camera is introduced among rumours one was also coming to the iPod touch. There's also a speaker, pedometer and improved colour finishes. How they pack it all in is beyond us.

History of the ipod

Revision of 3rd gen iPod shuffle
Released: September 2009
Details: 2, 4GB, USB, battery: 10 hours audio
2GB model added alongside 4GB, plus new colours.

History of the ipod

4th gen iPod touch
Released: September 2010
Details: 8, 32, 64GB, USB, 40 hours audio, 7 hours video
After the previous generation was based on the iPhone 3GS, the fourth generation got the innards of the iPhone 4, with the Apple A4, revered retina display plus a front facing webcam for FaceTime chats. The iPod touch began shipping with iOS 5 in October 2011, enabling wireless sync while a white version was also introduced.

4th gen ipod touch

6th gen iPod nano
Released: September 2010
Details: 8, 16GB, USB, battery: 24 hours audio
Despite the success of the click wheel iPod nanos, Apple decided to take the nano in a completely different direction, dumping the physical controls from the face, introducing multitouch and getting rid of the video camera and video playback ability. The interface is similar to iOS but is not called as such as there are no downloadable apps. There is a built-in accelerometer for the Nike+iPod to work without an additional attachment.

iPod nano 6th gen

4th gen iPod shuffle
Released: September 2010
Details: 2GB, USB, battery: 15 hours audio
Is this the first time Apple has dumped a newer design to return to (almost) a previous one? The 4th gen bears more than a passing resemblance to the 2nd gen Shuffle - not least because it returns to the familiar circle button design rather than having the controls on the headphones. There's also the familiar power/shuffle switch as well as a button for the VoiceOver function.

iPod shuffle 6th gen

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