In 2001, an unassuming white box arrived and changed the gadget world.
Good job it did, too – if Apple had carried on just making computers, we might all be walking around listening to MiniDiscs, taking photos on compact cameras and making phone calls on our Nokias. But the iPod changed everything.
Now, in 2017, Apple has killed the iPod dead. (Apart from the iPod touch, which for the purposes of this feature we’ve decided isn’t a ‘proper’ iPod – more an iPhone someone’s hacked the Phone app off of using a chisel.)
Its an inauspicious end to a mobile device that dramatically changed Apple’s fortunes. Despite some early fumbles – the iPod was Mac-only and FireWire at first – Apple’s music player was transformative, and the perfect example of taking something that already existed but improving it immeasurably.
In terms of design, the original iPod was a classic. The scroll wheel was a stroke of genius that in many ways beats a touchscreen for the tactile pleasure of scanning from Abba to Zappa. Add in the iTunes Store and a new way to listen to music emerged.
Then Apple started iterating. Smaller. Thinner. More buttons. No buttons. The iPod became a playground, and even a U2 special edition couldn’t derail the line’s march towards ubiquity. Other players became an irrelevance, until the iPhone showed up and in an instant made every iPod look obsolete.
So on a day like today, there’s only one thing left to do – doff our caps and make the definitive list of the best iPods ever…
1) iPod, first generation (2001)
The original iPod had a scroll wheel that actually turned, and four buttons around the wheel that made a satisfying click when pressed.
With a then-generous 5GB of storage, and (unlike its rivals) an interface that didn’t make you want to punch your own face off, Apple’s first iPod was nonetheless derided by plenty of people who didn’t see the potential. Including some naysayers in the Stuff office.
Little did they know that people love usability — and are willing to pay for it.
2) iPod Nano (2005)
After only 18 months, the iPod mini was dead, and Apple’s obsession with miniaturisation began in earnest. The iPod Nano was the result.
Out went hard drives and in came SSD. Out went capacity, too, with the high-end version packing 4GB and the low end a measly 1GB. Still, that was more than enough for our gym playlists, and the Nano was a brilliant running companion (particularly when combined with the Nike+iPod kit that arrived the next year).
This meant the Nano stuck around and rapidly became a playground for Apple's hardware designers, the device getting a radical overhaul almost annually.