This month in tech history: October - First iPod released

The first line of iPods was released on 23 October 2001, almost 18 months before the iTunes Music Store was launched.

23 October 2001 – “1,000 songs in your pocket”

The first generation of the iconic (and now tragically discontinued) iPod (Classic) was introduced on 23 October 2001 with the slogan “1,000 songs in your pocket”.

The name iPod wasn’t originally intended for the music player; it had originally been trademarked by Apple for internet kiosks which never made it into public production. Copywriter Vinnie Chieco saw the marketing potential in the name though and linked the trademark to the music player.

With a hefty US$399 price tag, the design included a mechanical scroll wheel on the front with four auxiliary buttons around it, a black and white LCD screen, and a 5GB hard drive capable of storing 1,000 songs encoded using MP3. The battery life was around 10 hours.

On March 20, 2002, Apple introduced 10GB and 20GB models of the first generation iPod for US$499. VCard compatibility was added and you could display business card information synced from a Mac (something I confess I don’t see the appeal of).

In all, there were six generations of the iPod Classic, with all generations using a 1.8-inch hard drive for storage. The “classic” suffix wasn’t formally introduced until the sixth-generation iPod on September 5, 2007 - prior to this, all iPod Classic models were simply referred to as iPods.

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To music fans’ dismay, Apple discontinued the iPod Classic on 9 September 2014. The final, sixth generation had the largest storage size of any mobile Apple device, with 160GB of storage, and was the last Apple product in the iPod line to use the original 30-pin iPod connector and the Click Wheel.

Tim Cook explained the decision [video, see 28:45] at WSJDLive (The Wall Street Journal’s global technology conference), claiming that the parts were unavailable and a redesign was unwarranted given the small amount of consumer interest in the product.

Ironic then, that the sixth generation iPod Classic was “Apple’s hottest item” that Christmas, with music fans pay up to four times original price.


Further reading:

This month in tech history: April – Apple