iPod Turns 18: Here's What People Thought in 2001
Today marks the 18th anniversary of Steve Jobs unveiling the original iPod at a small event on Apple's Infinite Loop campus. While the iMac started Apple's renaissance in 1998, it was the launch of the iPod in 2001 that truly set Apple on a path towards becoming the world's most valuable company.
Jobs famously pitched the original iPod as offering "1,000 songs in your pocket." The combination of its 5GB hard drive and 0.75-inch thickness was impressive at the time, with the device also featuring a two-inch screen, up to 10 hours of battery life, a FireWire port, and the first iteration of the iconic click wheel.
"With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go," said Jobs in Apple's press release from October 23, 2001. "With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again."
While many people were thrilled about the iPod, others were not so impressed. Here is a sample of some comments from the MacRumors forum thread about the iPod from the day it was announced, with some light editing for clarity:
I still can't believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player?
Hey - here's an idea Apple - rather than enter the world of gimmicks and toys, why don't you spend a little more time sorting out your pathetically expensive and crap server line up? Or are you really aiming to become a glorified consumer gimmicks firm?
We live in the YEAR 2001… not 6,000 years from now when ridiculously awesome technology will exist. No other MP3 player has a hard drive like this… 5 gigs… Rio of the same size offers 64 megs… get over your moping… this is revolutionary… plus it's just the beginning.
This is not like any other MP3 player on the market, imagine being able to store several days worth of music at once! The iPod will be great for travelers, students, heck anyone who is really into music.
There are already two products similar to this on the market. The Nomad Jukebox and the Archos Jukebox which can come with a 20 gig hard drive. The iPod is obviously a lot cooler and has FireWire, but it is far from revolutionary. I for one am disappointed and think that Apple is making a mistake by trying to get into this market.
This is a nice product. A firewire MP3 player/HD with 5 GB capacity in such a small package. It is a little overpriced for such a device, though.
Opinions are similarly split in this Slashdot thread from the day the iPod was announced.
In an October 2001 column for The New York Times, well-known tech writer David Pogue described the iPod as "the most beautiful and cleverly engineered MP3 player ever," suggesting that it would become a smash hit if Apple lowered its price and made it compatible with Windows:
Apple clearly believes that the iPod's advances in size, speed, function and elegance are worth the $150 price premium, but not everyone feels that way. In an informal poll at the Macworld.com Web site, 40 percent of Mac fans indicated that they would not be buying an iPod, and every single one cited the price.
It should also be noted, however, that the remaining 60 percent had either already ordered iPods or were virtually drooling into their keyboards. They are among the first to succumb to the lure of the most beautiful and cleverly engineered MP3 player ever. But if Apple ever lowers the iPod’s price and develops Windows software for it, watch out: the invasion of the iPod people will surely begin in earnest.
In July 2002, Apple did just that, lowering the price of the 5GB iPod to $299 and extending compatibility to Windows. iPod went on to become the best-selling digital music player in history — at least until smartphones.
More links related to the original iPod:
- Apple Presents iPod press release
- Apple's homepage on October 23, 2001
- The New York Times announcement coverage
- WIRED announcement coverage
- UPenn Computing announcement coverage
Apple discontinued the iPod classic in September 2014, followed by the iPod nano and iPod shuffle in July 2017. The only model still available for purchase is the iPod touch, which received a minor refresh last May.