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back to article Apple's iPod: ten years old

Apple's iconic iPod digital music player will be ten years old on Sunday. The first model, which contained a 4200rpm, 1.8in Toshiba 5GB hard drive for storage, was announced on Tuesday, 23 October 2001, though didn't find its way into buyers' hands for another couple of weeks or so, on 10 November. Apple iPod first generation …

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Say what you want

Ouf of all iPods, I still like this design best. Ten years already *sigh*

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The 2nd gen was the absolute best. Same basic design but a capacitive wheel rather than a physical bearing. Also went up to 20Gb. Ahh happy memories.

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Ah, yes. The gadget that corrupted the ears of a generation.

Sad that today's kids have no idea what music actually sounds like ...

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3rd gen ftw

I loved the touch-sensitive controls coupled with guides for your fingers so you could use it unsighted. I even changed the volume without taking it out of my pocket

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great memorys

bought one of these Jan 2002. it still works though I've had to resolder the firewire port connectors several times. other than that they were built like battleships.

didn't have a Mac at the time so had to haul it across London to a mate's house if I wanted to add any tunes. used to live in fear of being mugged.

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JDX
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pre-touch iPod

I still love the design on the metal nano... the wheel and overall finish is so tactile. I think the touch versions lose a bit of 'soul'

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" [Appealed to] wealthy folk with large CD collections" - if you define wealthy as 'can afford £300' and 'large collection' as 100 albums (if you put them in Apple Lossless then only 25 albums).

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Anonymous Coward

re: if you define

yes i do.

'can afford £300' should be 'has £300 of disposable income'

i could justify spending that much on something like a monitor, as it should last me many years, but to be an early adopter on a portable music device? no

'100 albums' = 5 albums a year for 20 years, assuming you convert from vinyl. Even people I know who are into their music would take 5+ years to get to 100 albums...

even then, youd only listen to a fraction of that while you were oot and aboot...

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Linux

Apple products have always been anemic...

Apple products have always been anemic when it comes to storage and plenty of fanboys will come out of the woodwork to make all sorts of excuses for this. This is precisely the sort of nonsense that demonstrates why Apple should not be able to keep anyone else out of the market regardless of what their excuse is.

Someone needs to be able to accomodate the rest of us.

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Sharp Minidisc

"the novel rotating mechanical navwheel - really the only innovation Apple's first iPod brought to the portable music player market"

No, it wasn't. The Sharp 722 MiniDisc player had a rotating navwheel. The iPod was probably the first to bring it to an MP3 player, though I can't see an inherent distinction between a device playing MP3 and AAC and a device playing ATRAC.

However, it doesn't really matter- the strength of the iPod was the way its individual components were put together... into a package that reminded one of a cigarette case or hip-flask.

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Re. Sharp Minidisc

If it's the MD player I'm thinking of (fecking ugly with a knurled silver wheel around the LCD screen), then wasn't it more of a jog-wheel -- i.e. it didn't continuously rotate like the iPod.

I may be wrong, my recollection of a friend's MD player from over 10 years ago is a little hazy.

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continuous rotation

The Sharp 722 did have a continuously rotating scroll wheel, but it wasn't integrated into the the main 'track select' function of the MD player. You probably saw your friend use a rocker - concentric to the continuously rotating scroll wheel- to skip tracks, but this rocker behaved like a Sony jog thingie.

The main scroll wheel was used for going through the alphabet (when titling tracks) and for jogging through a track when editing (remember that MD recorders let you record, split, combine and rearrange tracks) but you had to pause it first, less so for selecting tracks for playback- hell, there wouldn't usually be enough tracks on the disc to make a jog wheel an essential feature.

Still, I can only assume that our Reg correspondent was more of a DAT man.

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10 years later they are still ridiculously overpriced, you can get undeniably better players for literally half the money.

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Big Brother

What would you recommend as an alternative?

Not being snarky, but a genuine question? I have a touch but when I need to move onto something else, I'd like to go something non-Apple. What other reasonably high capacity but pocketable players are out there that are actually any good?

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Many possibilities

I have a Philips player with 16GB, can't remember the model. Paid $79 a couple of years ago. Nice, though small color screen will display photos, video, has an FM tuner, and sounds great, it even has a volume limiter so you don't accidently blow your ears out.

Shop around there are MANY good players without the apple logo or price point.

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Anonymous Coward

many of my friends have archos media players,

i myself, use my phone.

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Linux

iPod alternatives...

I was never much into the whole "walkman" thing. I was always more interested in "home audio" and "car audio" and the occasional bit of bulk storage. I started out with data CDs and moved onto data DVDs and things like MythTV.

These days, I would just use a thumb drive and a car stereo that can use it.

For video, I use Archos devices because they are unmatched in terms of capacity.

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Sansa Fuze is pretty good - tiny, card slot, reasonable sound, battery lasts for ages, can be got cheap, plays lots of formats. Menu system is a little crummy, but works ok.

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Happy

+1 for the Fuze

My daughter has one - 4Gb for 50 quid. It's one of the older ones, with the rotating nav wheel :-). She's 11, and copes with the UI fine. Also +1 for the volume limiter!

The Sansa Clip is great for just music, as it's utterly tiny (makes the Nano look big) and has a gorgeous 2-color OLED screen. It's also extremely cheap, and sounds pretty good. The cheapness is a feature here - you don't suffer from "shiny-thing-anxiety" if you take it anywhere.

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Anonymous Coward

iPod alternatives

iRiver. H10 or H11 if you don't want a new one.

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2nd Gen ipod still useful

Still have my 2nd Gen iPod from December 2002 - and found an alternative use a couple of days ago. Internal hard disc died on my iMac, so installed Snow Leopard on the iPod via firewire and ran the iMac for a couple of days from there while waiting for a replacement hard disc to arrive. The iMac was surprisingly useful from the external iPod, although the boot time was horrendous.

Used this setup to update an iPod touch to iOS 5 too.

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The only innovation was the wheel?

Easy to forget 10 years later that the reason people bought these was the astounding storage capacity, for the form factor, for the time. Even people who weren't sold on the whole music player concept bought them, just as a high-capacity storage device that went in your pocket (back in the days Apple supported that as a use case).

But God was it really only 10 years ago? I've got an Apple supercomputer in my pocket now (missus) that makes phonecalls as an added bonus (having iPod and phone in my trousers was always too unwieldy and I swear I'm not doing this on purpose). Amazing how these things develop!

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Yep - they were incredible portable discs

I remember from the 'making of' movie for LoTR that when Jackson was in London, working with the composer on the scoring, they would transfer the entire movie every day to London, then write it onto an iPod and have it couriered to him.

http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/news/comments/ipod-helped-to-make-lord-of-the-rings/

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I always wanted one...

...even before they were invented.

As a kid I wanted some way to carry around all of my music.

Years later the iPod (and their like) arrived.

Brilliant.

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Facepalm

novel rotating mechanical navwheel - really the only innovation : Err cough

What was novel or innovative about the rotating wheel as way of driving a user interface.

HP's 9826 used a wheel to move the cursor about the screen in 1981, pre-dating the iPod by over 20 years.

And given their proximity and early links, it is inconceivable that no in Apple had ever seen one in use.

In many way's the wheel is a better user interface than the mouse when you are inside a document as it can just keep going, saves on needing scroll bars and stuff. It was a great shame when it dropped out of use.

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I had a Creative DAP Jukebox, still do somewhere in fact, which I thought was brilliant. For the size of a CD player I had a 4GB HDD and an easily navigated music library.

I then went to Australia for a gap year and one day when talking to the bus driver of all people, I spotted this iThingy on his dash so I asked him about it. "WTF is that, it's so small?!" A few months later in the States I bought myself, I believe, a 3rd Gen iPod. I loved it until someone stole it :(

I then got myself a 2nd Gen iPod mini and that was great until it froze on the ski slopes.

Now I've got a Zen and I'd struggle to go back to an iPod now because of the iTunes requirement. My other two I could sync (or at least send tracks to) with a winamp plugin. Not sure you can do that any more?

Great little device and definitely changed the music industry. Shame it came at a cost. The entertainment industry has had to buy various governments to try to ban people from the internet, that's not cool but hardly what the iPod set out to achieve!

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FAIL

Wow, 10 years

and they still haven't found a way to stop it crashing every time you connect it to iTunes and upgrade iOS, sounds like the first 5 years of Windows.

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Happy

I remember thinking "Why would I want that?" when Apple launched it.

It was such a good product and such an obvious one in hindsights.

I have to say i am very disappointed by the replacement of "iPod" by "music" on iOS5.

Why? this is such an obvious term to identify music playing these days..

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"iPod" => "music"

I know, a bizzare move.... as if they are trying to kill their own brand!

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I remember when I first heard of the iPod...

It was about two weeks after I'd spent £300 on a minidisc player.

Another partial success.

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Anonymous Coward

iPOD

"The gadget that changed the music industry"

The hyperbole that hyperboled the hyperbole.

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....

"Once the iPod had gone public, the reaction was generally negative. The device wasn't cheap - $400 in the US, and £300 in the UK -"

Ye-es, but then again, no. Early adopters were eager, to the point that there was a small but significant market for a software workaround for PCs for the 8-9 months that it was Mac only. I remember I was following it avidly at that time, hoping that it would become less niche and open to PC users. When it was finally released for PC, the software (MMJB) was horrendous, but this was arguably the iPod in its most unadulterated form - by geeks for geeks!

Word spread pretty slowly, but the early adopters played a huge role in raising awareness of this weird new product category; it's interesting to think where Apple would be now if the iPod was still just for the tech geeks...

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Anonymous Coward

wow

10 years already...

I still have (and use) my iPod Photo back in 2005. Its great.

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Only ten years old

It seems much longer but it has changed the way people use music.

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Anonymous Coward

I still have ...

My old iRiver with a 40Gb HDD. Sounds better than any iPod I've heard and with RockBox its even better. The recording feature is dead good too,

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Still have mine...

...and ccasionally still use it as a portable hard drive. With the exception of the earphone jack starting to get a bit wobbly towards the end, the thing was rock solid.

I have a Touch now, which works fine and I use it almost continuously, but the old model had one advantage that I miss: with the wheel, you could adjust the volume and change songs without having to remove it from your shirt pocket and look at it. I'm actually giving thought to buying a Classic just to get this feature back (Well... okay... AND to quadruple the capacity, too...).

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Boffin

Using a iPod Touch

Don't know which iPod Touch you have, but they have physical controls so you can adjust volume and change songs without looking at the screen.

My 32GB Touch (3rd gen) gives 3 or 4 options to control the playback - Touch Screen obviously, Volume buttons on the device + Shake to shuffle (turned off on my as it jumps tracks when running), Voice Control (fun to demo.. but near useless in practise at a gym) and most useful of all, the controls on the headphones. I have a few sets of headphones but ones with controls built in are very useful when you need to mute music or jump a track without removing the iPod from my case.

I used to have a 5th Gen iPod Video, and the Touch really is better in every way other than maybe that it can't be used as mass-storage. Not an issue these days when memory sticks are everywhere but something I used to use my iPod for in the day.

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I know it sounds tired, but I think the biggest innovation was the simple, intuitive UI.

People that hated Apple/iPods always pointed out that Archos and other mp3 players could do everything the iPod could, which is absolutely true. Apple instead introduced a small, highly polished (literally and figuratively) player that was beautiful and easy to use–something no competitor could claim at the time. It wasn't the list of features that was new, it was how easy it was to use all of them.

This was the first electronic gadget that I was able to use nearly 100% of the features without referencing the manual. The manual it came with was scant, at best, but that was just the thing–you didn't need it. The only thing I couldn't figure out on my own was how to get the backlight on when it was dark (hold the play button down for 5 seconds or so, then the backlight stays on long enough to enable it in the settings).

Mine still works, though the battery life is not so great and it mostly sits in a drawer. I loved the mechanical wheel, though it was prone to accidental swipes that resulted in high volume music.

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Sony...

Didnt catch up for a few years (04) with the NW-HD1. So SonicStage was an arse but no more limiting than itunes at the time DRM wise, sound quality was way ahead however & it still works too.

The X1060 was alright too but then I defected & got a N8.

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@ lincard1000

any of the Cowon mp3 players - superb sound quality, completely drag and drop and solid build quality.

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FAIL

Those iconic headphones

Oh how much I hate Apple for introducing those 'iconic' noise leaking headphones. Bus journeys have never been the same since!

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Agree, but.....

They were a big improvement on the foam-eared headphones you got with various types of WalkMan's (CD or tape).

I've had about 5 iPods over the years, and the first thing I do is throw away the Apple earphones. Replacing them with some much better Creative, Sony or (my latest) Etymotic phones is the difference between Joe's Cafe and Quaglino's. Plus, being black rather than white, they don't scream "Mug Me"!

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SonicStage

was painfully bad, but the USB stick music players were actually quite nice from an aesthetic point of view - I still use them today as regular memory sticks!

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I have a iRiver H140 which I rarely power up with Rockbox on it. Too bulky and heavy. I also have a first generation iPod nano which is still my main workhorse. Also running Rockbox on it. I have a cheap Chinese iPod Nana v2 knockoff I use in bed for distraction from chronic tinnitus (a side effect for the iPod generation).

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A true tech classic

As title really. I wonder if they will do a 10th anniversary model?

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Alternatives - Predecessors ?

Where is the expected a brigade of folks all saying "I had Archos/Creative xxx on 2001 it wasted the iPod". Well I bought an Archos JBM20 in 2002, in preference to an iPod. Not as elegant as the ipod, but far cheaper, same 20 Gb capacity, and it had a colour screen and (drum roll) played videos! The cutting edge is sometimes more attractive than the elegant, especially when it is half the price. Still jealous of the Apple wheely thing though.

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Mushroom

Complicated junk then?

Sounds like the complicated junk being thrown out left, right and centre to become the iPod killer. None of them achieved that because they didn't care about simplicity, integration and being effortless.

I had a Cowon iAudio M3 (scream "i" coolness factor product). Known for great sound quality (only by margins because of the BBE DSP they bought into) but didn't they know how to mess up the product by using a crappy UI. Being anti-iPod at the time, I wished for the simplicity without having to worry about iTunes. Wrong! I made more work trying to organise my junk. Oh, this MP3 player advertised itself without having an on-board screen and tried to play on a remote LCD which was cool for the first 10 minutes of use and then became annoying when the wire snapped inside and caused problems.

Bit the bullet with my first iPod (2nd Gen) Nano in late 2006. Never looked back.

I'd reverse your statement and say the elegance is more attractive than cutting edge. Cutting edge is poor when it's poorly executed. Like most MP3 players in the late 00s.

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Great for dSLR backup too

Still use mine today for dSLR photo backups. Great multi-use devise :)

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Check out Sandisk's Sansa line. I bought an 8GB Clip+ for $40 and added a 16GB SDHC card. It also has voice recording, FM radio, rechargeable battery, and easy nav (incl browse by genre or folder).

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Really?!

It would be rather refreshing if every article since Jobs death did not have the words "Changed the world " or something similar in the article title. Not one of the Apple (other companies included) products has much purpose without all the supporting companies and their products. An iPod and iTunes are worthless products without the music industry to support them. Music was and will always be a huge market without iPod or iTunes. The hyperbole surrounding Apple and these products far exceeds their actual value personally, professionally and on Wall Street. Yes, the world has changed since vinyl albums and rock and roll died, but not for the better, musically or otherwise.

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