I was for the iPod before I was against it, but even I can’t deny how important it was to the formation of this post-PC era. As many of you know, I picked up the 10GB version of the one you see above. It was the first iteration they released for Windows and it was October 2002. The massive, cubic packaging (which they would shed quickly) was only about half-full of product, including the iPod, crappy earbuds, a remote that was too heavy to keep clamped on anything, and a Firewire cable. Yes, I needed a Firewire card to even use the thing and that puppy got hot when you started transferring stuff over. The screen was monochromatic with a bright white backlight that faded in and out as you used it. Sure there were other MP3 players out at the time, but this is the one you actually wanted.
Before Apple began to splinter their lineup into a billion different iterations, some of which didn’t even come with displays, this was what they offered. Pearlescent on its face, a mirror-like metal shell encapsulated the rest of the body. Mine was the first with a touch wheel and it came with a cool bug: tap two opposite corners of the wheel at once and the volume popped to maximum. That was great. It was my second MP3 player (at $399.99, was a cool $120 less than my first!), it was my first portable hard drive (I shuttled my Zero Wing animation to and from school on it), and I loved it. It was a magical piece of hardware. After a year, the hard drive eventually went south and my first – and ultimately last – piece of Apple gear went down the tubes fast. I’d intended to get a replacement, but was ultimately never portable enough after school to justify it.
Apple made the MP3 player fashionable at a time when Sony and Philips were more interested in getting you to burn those files on discs and throw them in CD players. You don’t think of it much now, but what came because of the arrival of the iPod over the years?
Legitimate digital music. While the RIAA was still busy screwing everyone in the wake of Napster, iTunes made music purchasing easier than finding it online and stealing it. I accumulated roughly $300+ in music on iTunes over the years, even when I didn’t have an iPod anymore, just so I could continue to support my favorite artists and get individual singles without having to buy entire albums. First album I ever bought digitally? Lo-Pro’s self-titled disc.
Zune. Without iPod, there would have been no Zune. There aren’t many innovative products that come out of Microsoft; the magic comes when they iterate it with their own products. Windows is better than Mac OS X, Zune is better than iPod. Done deal. While the Zune always hovered in Apple’s shadow, they brought a lot of thought and quality to the table. Then cloud music stole my heart.
The iPhone. I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I’m not a fan of the iPhone isn’t because it changed how smartphones work, but because it hasn’t really iterated much since then. Apple brought a slick interface, a capacitive touch screen at a time when many were still using mushy capacitive screens, and (eventually) the first major app store. All of these changed how we use phones. Instead of working with clunky Windows Mobile now, we’re using fast and responsive OSes like Windows Phone (well, some), webOS (well, no one), or Android (well, kinda, until Ice Cream Sandwich lands) with a major emphasis on the apps you can add to the experience.
There’s simply too much to list here, but this article has to end somewhere. While we are now mortal enemies, we were once good friends. I respect your magical devices, but I must settle with better features, bigger screens, and more functionality. So, happy 10th, iPod. Thanks for being here!