The evolution of devices that play music involves a fascinating timeline. From the Edison Victrolas that were launched in 1877 to the Discman that Generation X used to tune out the world, what we use to listen to what we love has become more compact and filled with more features over time. Who would have thought back in the 1990s that we could carry around entire discographies in our pockets?
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The launch of Apple’s iPod certainly made this possible, however. While not the first device engineered to play MP3s, the iPod definitely emerged as a leader in the industry soon after the debut of the first generation players. These took the music world by storm on Saturday November 10, 2001 when they were first released for sale (via Life Wire).
The first generation iPod had an extremely simple user interface; they didn’t require you to be much of a techie to operate. There were eventually two models to choose from, a 5GB and a 10GB. With a storage capacity of between 1,000 and 2,000 songs and a battery life of 10 hours, you could listen to the iPod all day long and not hear close to every song you had uploaded to it.
The cost of the two models ranged from $399 to $499, with the 10GB model having the bigger price tag. In spite of the cost, Apple managed to move over 125,000 units by the end of 2001 (via Apple Insider).
The design of the first iPod resulted in a lightweight unit that weighed 6.5oz. The dimensions were 4.02″ x 2.43″ x .78″, making it about the same as a deck of playing cards. The face of the device had a two-inch 160 x 128 pixel screen, which was located above a set of four buttons that surrounded a scrolling wheel. This wheel enabled the user to scroll between multiple options on the screen. The four buttons that surrounded the wheel were for controlling the play of the music.
The iPod continued to go through design changes and upgrades, until the final generation was released in September of 2007. This sixth generation MP3 player was produced for another seven years until Apple discontinued it in 2014.
The differences in the first and last generation players from Apple couldn’t be more stark. The last iPod could be purchased with a 160GB capacity, holding up to 40,000 songs in its memory. It was also capable of playing video, which was viewed on a 2.5″ 320 x 240 pixel screen. This smaller, lighter iPod had a much longer battery life, allowing the user to listen for up to 40 hours between charges.
It’s important to understand how this tiny storage device helped to make Apple into the company that it is today. The success of the iPhone and its subsequent generations paved the way for Apple to engineer and market iPhones and iPads, totally changing the landscape of the tech industry. With sales that eventually topped 350 million, it’s easy to see how one product fattened Apple’s bottom line.