The iPod turns 10

Today is the 10th anniversary of the most iconic music player on the planet, and the product that saved Apple in 2001. Widely derided at the time (aren’t all Apple products?), it went on to change how we listened, bought, and thought about music. Here’s how it changed me.

I still remember the elation I felt when I bought my first iPod in 2005. After two years of saving, I amassed enough to purchase an iPod, I’d never really spent time in an Apple store before, and I was dazzled by the sleek displays and magical atmosphere. I was trying to decide between getting a newly-released nano or the classic iPod with color display. The salesperson hinted that if I waited a bit, there might be a new design, but I didn’t want to wait. It was my birthday, and I purchased a classic anyways. As it turned out, the video iPod was released only 3 weeks later, but I opted to stick with my chubby yet iconic 4g. I preferred the look of the smaller screen and the way the thicker body fit in my hand. I’ve never regretted keeping my “outdated” model, and to this day it’s displayed proudly in my apartment. I even use it sometimes when nostalgia strikes or I want to focus on work without all the distractions of an iOS device.


After high school graduation my dad bought me a video iPod (the famously fail-prone 4g was limping along by then) and I tried hard to get used to the new design. But try as a I might, I never fell for it in quite the same way. I still prefer my original 4g to the video model, which sits unused on a shelf. I plan to turn it into a permanent car jukebox someday, for which its large capacity and buttons make it ideal.

Thanks to my inconvenient attachment to the 4g iPod, I ended up paying to get it repaired twice over the next three years, with factory replacement parts and a new case. It still needs to be opened up monthly to reattach the hard drive connectors, but we’ve reached a favorable balance where I can count on it to perform when needed. This tinkering led me to install (and subsequently remove) Rockbox, as well as replacing the default typeface. I’ve always liked the look of Naughty Dog’s Precursor alphabet and the spot-on font by QueenSimia, so I added a few necessary glyphs myself and loaded it on. Now that I’ve removed Rockbox due to its horrendous battery life and labyrinthine design, I can’t edit my fonts anymore. But that’s ok, because I personally love the distinct and eye-catching Precursor typeface.


Loading a custom firmware, replacing broken parts, and changing a default font are hardly advanced maneuvers, but they introduced me to the tinkering world and helped me discover what technology is capable of. Without those customizations and repairs, I probably wouldn’t have the passion for tech that I do today.


I’ve never considered the iOS lineup to be true iPods, but my iPod touch is undoubtedly my most-used possession. After 3 years of updates, several jailbreaks, and a particularly devastating drop onto concrete a few weeks ago, it’s seen better days. But for that time, it’s been an unfailing window to the internet, a fabulous gaming machine, and a personal organizer to keep my life in order. I feel insecure without it in my pocket, and I know more and more people that  feel the same way. Music is only a small part of its capabilities, but the iPod touch has expanded the role of the personal media player far beyond anything we could imagine in 2001.


My most recent iPod is a silver shuffle I received for my birthday last year. To me, this is the ideal counterpart to a pricy and full-featured iDevice. The tiny size, simple control scheme, and durability make it the perfect sidekick. An iOS device playing music in a pocket is tough to control, and carrying it while exercising is asking for disaster. The shuffle corrects both problems with tactile buttons and the minuscule form factor. Many people don’t see the need for a shuffle, but it’s fast become my go-to music machine in just about every situation.

My first major purchase was an iPod, and my next will be an iPhone. That probably represents the shrinking state of the iPod’s market, but the iPod remains the most iconic product of the 21st century, and likely the sole reason Apple turned a profit in the early 2000s. On its 10th birthday, think how different the world might be without “1000 songs in your pocket.”

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