Ten years ago today, Apple announced the original iPod, an early step in the computer maker’s evolution into a consumer electronics giant. Designed solely to store and play music, the first iPod was distinguished by its unusually small size for a then-considerable 5 Gigabytes of storage space, enough to hold roughly 1,000 songs. With a clear and white plastic face and a mirror-polished stainless steel back, the iPod used a physically moving Scroll Wheel and four physical buttons to navigate black text menus on a white backlit screen.
At the time of its introduction, the original $399 iPod was embraced by some Apple Macintosh computer fans, but derided by others—and much of the existing PC marketplace—as overpriced and lacking in features. iLounge’s founder Dennis Lloyd immediately fell in love with the minimalist design and created this site to gather information about it, launching around the iPod’s November 10, 2001 release date. By the end of its first year, only 125,000 iPods had been sold, but the numbers began to climb the next year as PC-compatible iPods were released, and then jumped considerably in 2003 with the introduction of more affordable, USB-compatible models with Dock Connectors. The iPod family continued to grow in popularity and market dominance as Apple added color screens with support for photos, videos, games, and apps, combined with lowered prices, and the evolution of the original Scroll Wheel into various types of touch interfaces.
This video shows the unveiling of the iPod at Apple’s headquarters on October 23, 2001. No one, including then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs, had any idea just how successful the iPod would eventually become. As of today, over 300 million iPods have been sold. The DNA of the iPod resulted in the iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad, while influencing the design of Apple’s Mac hardware and software. Elegance and simplicity were taken to new levels in the Apple products that followed the original iPod, leading to a widespread perception that Apple’s offerings were uniquely capable of catering to users of any age and skill level. The iPod’s “halo effect” led Apple to change its name from Apple Computer to Apple Inc., reflecting its shift into consumer electronics, and eventually to Apple’s valuation as one of the largest companies in the world. Yet the iPod family has recently received comparatively modest attention from Apple as the iPhone, iPad, and Mac have continued to surge in sales; even today’s anniversary has proceeded without a mention on the forward-looking company’s web site.
If you’re reading this or listening to something on an Apple device right now, there’s a pretty good chance that the iPod’s success is at least partially responsible for that. And we wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the little music player that could. Happy 10th anniversary, iPod!