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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  1. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up

    Say what you want

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

    1. cloudgazer

      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.

  2. jake Silver badge

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

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

    1. John 62

      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

  3. stickman
    Thumb Up

    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.

  4. JDX Gold badge

    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'

  5. Michael M

    " [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).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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...

      1. JEDIDIAH

        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.

  6. Dave 126 Silver badge

    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.

    1. RichyS

      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.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        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.

  7. HP Cynic

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

    1. LINCARD1000
      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?

      1. Framitz

        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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        many of my friends have archos media players,

        i myself, use my phone.

        1. JEDIDIAH

          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            iPod alternatives

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

      3. G Wilson

        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.

        1. Hayden Clark Silver badge

          +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.

  8. My Coat
    Thumb Up

    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.

  9. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    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!

    1. cloudgazer

      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.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    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.


  11. Dazed and Confused

    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.

  12. yoinkster

    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!

  13. Lloyd

    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.

  14. Philippe

    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..

    1. OrsonX

      "iPod" => "music"

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

  15. Tom_

    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.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The gadget that changed the music industry"

    The hyperbole that hyperboled the hyperbole.

  17. Dibbles


    "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...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    10 years already...

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

  19. John I'm only dancing

    Only ten years old

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

  20. Anonymous Coward
    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,

  21. Mike Moyle

    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...).

    1. GrantB

      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.

  22. chocolategourmand

    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.

  23. Chris 171


    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.

  24. thomas newton

    @ lincard1000

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

  25. StrictlySocial

    Those iconic headphones

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

    1. Snapper
      Thumb Up

      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"!

  26. OrsonX


    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!

  27. Dick Emery

    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).

  28. Wisteela
    Thumb Up

    A true tech classic

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

  29. Jim 59

    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.

    1. the-it-slayer

      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.

  30. Jean-Paul

    Great for dSLR backup too

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

  31. joejack
    Thumb Up

    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).

  32. tslate


    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.

  33. jason 7

    The incease in use of such devices......

    ...has had a reverse effect on the amount of CDs I have bought over the past 10 years.

    Generally the 'iPod' has become the benchmark for the level of audio playback most folks have access too. Hence why most CDs/recorded music now sound total garbage.

    Thanks iPod! Wish you'd never been invented.

  34. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    I'm not an fanboi, not by a long shot, but I have to admit the 3rd gen iPod is rock solid, and was a great investment for me, back in 2006. Mine still gets daily use as both portable drive and mp3 player.

    I still think the Windows version of iTunes should be treated by the ICC as a crime against humanity, though.

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