10 years of iPod: the gadget that put Apple in your pocket

A retrospective of the iPod

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Ten years ago on Sunday, the iPod was launched.

And it was with more of a whimper than a bang. The launch event on 23 October 2001 was held at Apple's Cupertino campus for a small gaggle of invited journalists, and not even deserving of a proper MacWorld keynote.

Despite the lack of prestige, Steve Jobs obviously knew he was onto a winner, because he launched iPod with the following words:

"The biggest thing about the iPod is that it holds 1,000 songs. This is a quantum leap because for most people it's their entire music library. This is huge."

Then came the killer line.

"The coolest thing about the iPod is that your whole music library fits in your pocket."

That was the hook that did it – a simple concept that everybody could understand. With those words, Steve Jobs had created an entirely new industry based around a portable digital music player – an industry that Apple would dominate for the next decade, and probably beyond that.

Companies like Creative and Diamond Multimedia were there first, but it was Apple that made the market take off.

A winning design

A great idea without great implementation wouldn't cut it though, and it was also the design of the iPod that made it successful. It was ultra-thin (for the time) and had a huge capacity (again, for the time) at 5GB.

It also had 20 minutes of skip protection, so you could take it jogging, cycling or wherever you wanted without skipping a beat. It was fast, too. It had a FireWire connection for quickly getting your music off your Mac and onto the iPod. Over time, as the comparable USB 2.0 standard evolved, Apple quietly dropped FireWire support altogether, but at the time it was a big selling point.

Back then it would take roughly five minutes to transfer a CD to a music player over USB, but FireWire cut this down to 10 seconds. That's 30 times faster! Even the original iPod's ten hours of battery life was considered 'extraordinary'.

The first iPod only worked on a Mac, but Apple soon realised that if the iPod was really going to take off it needed to have a wider vision – a vision that encompassed Windows and a digital music store from which people could purchase and download digital music with ease.

Nobody thought it could be done, but somehow Apple managed to get all the big music labels to come on board, with iPod at the centre of the whole thing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Join us for our look back at the last ten years of the iPod. The range starts small, expands and then concentrates on what it does best as Apple broadens its horizons with the iPhone and iPad as its new darlings.