How the iPod changed music forever… as Apple finally kills off gadget after 21 years

Anyone who was a teenager in the 1980s and 1990s will remember carrying around dozens of mini-discs with them as they sought to listen to their music collection while on the go. 

Devices such as Sony’s Walkman, the first version of which was released in 1979, gave fans access – albeit in a somewhat cumbersome fashion – to their favourite songs when out of the house. 

But that all changed with the release of Apple’s iPod in 2001, when the company’s boss Steve Jobs hailed the device as a ‘quantum leap’ in listening to music. ‘Your entire music library fits in your pocket,’ he said.

With its mechanical scroll wheel, black and white interface and iconic white case, the iPod was the first MP3 player to pack 1,000 songs into a machine that was the size of a pack of cards. 

With the iPod’s release came a whole new legion of devoted Apple fans who stuck with the firm as it kept bringing out new versions of its device, including the Nano and Touch.

The iPod’s popularity was typified by the queues of hundreds of shoppers outside Apple stores all around the world as fans sought to get their hands on the firm’s revolutionary music player. 

Along the way, the firm embedded itself further into popular culture with its commercials boasting silhouetted figures dancing to music that they were listening to with their white Apple headphones. 

It was those white wires cascading from the ears of millions of fans across the world that signified to others what device was being used, and told them that they needed to buy one too.

Yet Apple still managed to upset fans of their products, when in 2014 they automatically installed Irish band U2’s new album onto all their devices.    

The writing was on the wall for the iPod as early as 2007 when Jobs launched the iPhone.

With theatrical flair, he told an expectant audience the new product was an ‘iPod, a phone and an internet communicator’.

He was lighting a fire under his own product even though at the time it accounted for roughly 40 percent of Apple’s revenue, according to analysis by Statista.

Five years later, the iPod’s revenue share had plunged below 10 percent and it was being outsold by the iPhone. the most recent version of the device, the 2019 iPod Touch, has remained unchanged since its release. 

Yesterday, Apple finally announced the end of the iPod, saying that it was discontinuing the Touch. They said it will still be on sale ‘while stocks last’. 

The release of Apple’s iPod in November 2001 totally revolutionised the music industry and the experience of millions of listeners 

Apple boss Steve Jobs (above) hailed the device as a 'quantum leap' in listening to music

Queues outside the UK's first Apple store, on London's Regent Street

Apple boss Steve Jobs (left) hailed the device as a ‘quantum leap’ in listening to music. ‘Your entire music library fits in your pocket,’ he said. Right: Queues outside the UK’s first Apple store, on London’s Regent Street

The first of the Apple music players hit the shops in November 2001 and was  priced at $399. It had enough memory space for ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’. 

While this was incredibly advanced then, the average smartphone can now hold more than ten times that amount. 

Yet its 5GB of storage outstripped the competition at the time and its mechanical wheel was instantly iconic as it allowed a constant stream of music uncoupled from conventional albums.

In the following years, prices came down, storage space grew, colours and models proliferated and sales exploded.

The project almost failed due to last-minute battery problems, and Jobs complained that the device’s original volume controls were not up to scratch. 

The credit for naming the iPod goes to copywriter Vinnie Chieco, who drew his inspiration from the line ‘Open the pod bay door, Hal!’ in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

Music industry consultant Stephen Abbott was working for a record label in New York when Apple developed the iPod. 

Speaking to the BBC, he recalled getting a ‘call out of the blue’ from Apple in Christmas 2001, before executives arrived with a prototype of the iPod. 

The firm embedded itself further into popular culture with its commercials boasting silhouetted figures dancing to music that they were listening to with their white Apple headphones

The firm embedded itself further into popular culture with its commercials boasting silhouetted figures dancing to music that they were listening to with their white Apple headphones

Anyone who was a teenager in the 1980s and 1990s will remember carrying around dozens of mini-discs with them as they sought to listen to their music collection while on the go. Devices such as Sony's Walkman, the first version of which was released in 1979, gave fans access - albeit in a somewhat cumbersome fashion - to their favourite songs when out of the house

Anyone who was a teenager in the 1980s and 1990s will remember carrying around dozens of mini-discs with them as they sought to listen to their music collection while on the go. Devices such as Sony’s Walkman, the first version of which was released in 1979, gave fans access – albeit in a somewhat cumbersome fashion – to their favourite songs when out of the house

‘Three people came to the office… sat in a room amongst all our CDs, vinyl, cassette demos and they put this very small white plastic box in the middle of all of it and said this is going to change the way everybody listens to music. 

HISTORY OF iPOD MODELS

iPod Classic (seven generations, 2001-2008)

iPod Mini (two generations, 2004-2005)

iPod Nano (seven generations, 2005-2012)

iPod Shuffle (four generations, 2005-2010)

iPod Touch (seven generations, 2007-2019) 

‘It looked very sort irrelevant and small and did not look like it had any sort of impact. But by the time they left it was like we had witnessed a monolith from 2001. It was just incredible.’ 

Laura Snapes, The Guardian’s deputy music editor told the BBC that she remembered carrying around a ‘gigantic wallet of mini discs’ before the iPod era. 

‘iTunes saved the record industry in a way after the era of illegal downloading but it also started to break down the album. there was massive controversy about the fact you could buy an individual song from a record, you didn’t have to buy the whole thing, you could buy three bits of it if you wanted to,’ she said.

‘That really sowed the seeds of how we listen today.’ 

The next version of the iPod to come along was the iPod Mini, introduced in February 2004, which had a smaller design and came in a range of colours.

A year earlier, the iTunes Store – which marked the beginning of a digital marketplace for music – had been released by Apple. 

The iPod Shuffle, meanwhile, which was first released in January 2005, came without a display and was the smallest model in the iPod family.

Speaking in 2007, the year that the first iPhone was released, Jobs said of the iPod: ‘It didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry.’

Digital music was still in its infancy and closely associated with piracy.

File-sharing platform Napster had horrified the industry by dispensing with any idea of paying the record companies or musicians.

Against this background, Apple managed to persuade record company bosses to sanction the sale of individual tracks for 99 cents.

For years, bands from AC/DC to the Beatles and Metallica refused to allow Apple to sell their music.

Apple staff are seen clapping as they welcome customers through the doors of the firm's Regent Street store on the day it opened

Apple staff are seen clapping as they welcome customers through the doors of the firm’s Regent Street store on the day it opened

housands people queue up to wait for the opening sales of Apple's iPod Mini digital music player in front of Tokyo's Apple Computer store, 24 July 2004

housands people queue up to wait for the opening sales of Apple’s iPod Mini digital music player in front of Tokyo’s Apple Computer store, 24 July 2004

An iPod is seen on display at Apple's Regent Street store on the day that it opened in November 2004

An iPod is seen on display at Apple’s Regent Street store on the day that it opened in November 2004

Yet Apple still managed to upset fans of their products, when in 2014 they automatically installed Irish band U2's new album onto all their devices. Above U2 with current Apple boss Tim Cook

Yet Apple still managed to upset fans of their products, when in 2014 they automatically installed Irish band U2’s new album onto all their devices. Above U2 with current Apple boss Tim Cook

Pictured, the popular iPod Mini, introduced on February 20, 2004, which packed iPod's capacity into a smaller design at just 3.6 ounces

Pictured, the popular iPod Mini, introduced on February 20, 2004, which packed iPod’s capacity into a smaller design at just 3.6 ounces

iPod shuffle (fourth generation), introduced on July 15, 2015, offered a sleek design with up to 15 hours of battery life, 2GB of storage good for hundreds of songs, and a VoiceOver button to hear a song title, playlist name, or battery status

iPod shuffle (fourth generation), introduced on July 15, 2015, offered a sleek design with up to 15 hours of battery life, 2GB of storage good for hundreds of songs, and a VoiceOver button to hear a song title, playlist name, or battery status

iPod nano (second generation), introduced on September 25, 2006, offered a thin design, a bright color display, six stylish colors, and up to 24 hours of battery life, and put up to 2,000 songs in users’ pockets

iPod nano (second generation), introduced on September 25, 2006, offered a thin design, a bright color display, six stylish colors, and up to 24 hours of battery life, and put up to 2,000 songs in users’ pockets

But the industry has since found a way to stay hugely profitable and even embrace technology like streaming.

The industry’s embrace of the music revolution led to Apple’s partnership with U2 from 2004 onwards. The tie-up saw the firm promoting the band’s music and even release a U2-branded iPod. 

But in 2014, Apple decided to distribute U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, to all iTunes users, prompting a furious backlash. 

It meant that the tracks automatically appeared in the Music app on iPhones and iPods, leading many to question how they could delete the tracks. 

By the time the final iPod Touch model came out, the form factor essentially replicated Apple’s smartphones, with a selection of handy apps.

iPod Touch can even make phone calls, rendering the iPod almost redundant in the face of Apple’s all-powerful iPhone. 

The Daily Mail reported in 2003 how 'iPod fever' had taken over high streets, as stores ran out of stock of the device

The Daily Mail reported in 2003 how ‘iPod fever’ had taken over high streets, as stores ran out of stock of the device

The writing was on the wall for the iPod as early as 2007 when Jobs launched the iPhone. With theatrical flair, he told an expectant audience the new product was an 'iPod, a phone and an internet communicator'

The writing was on the wall for the iPod as early as 2007 when Jobs launched the iPhone. With theatrical flair, he told an expectant audience the new product was an ‘iPod, a phone and an internet communicator’

Apple’s announcement, made on Tuesday, led to an outpouring of fond memories on social media from former iPod owners.

Dutch designer Sebastiaan de With, who goes by the Twitter handle @sdw, said: ‘I’m endlessly grateful for iPod.

‘It got me into the Apple ‘universe’ at 15. It’s what made me buy my first Mac three years later, which started my career as a designer.’

Another Twitter user, @NikiasMolina, simply said: ‘Thank you for changing the world iPod.’

Apple said customers can purchase iPod Touch through apple.com, Apple Store locations and authorized Apple resellers while supplies last.

Fans are already snapping up the last of the iPod Touch devices still being sold, possibly to keep them in their packaging and turn them into collectors items in years to come.

THE TRILLION DOLLAR RISE OF APPLE

The company's journey to the summit of the technology industry has been a rocky one, having seen Jobs (pictured right in 1976) leave the firm in the mid-1980s after his pet project, the first Macintosh computer, struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley. Wozniak is pictured left  

The company’s journey to the summit of the technology industry has been a rocky one, having seen Jobs (pictured right in 1976) leave the firm in the mid-1980s after his pet project, the first Macintosh computer, struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley. Wozniak is pictured left  

1976: Founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne created the company on April 1 1976 as they set about selling computer kits to hobbyists, each of which was built by Wozniak.

The first product was the Apple I. 

1977: Apple released the Apple II in June, which was the first PC made for the mass market. 

1981: Jobs became chairman.  

1984: The Macintosh was introduced during an ad break for the Super Bowl and later officially unveiled during a launch event. It was discontinued a year later and Jobs left the firm.

1987: Apple released the Macintosh II, the first colour Mac.

1997: Apple announces it will acquire NeXT software in a $400 million deal that involves Jobs returning to Apple as interim CEO. He officially took the role in 2000.  

2001: Apple introduced iTunes, OS X and the first-generation iPod.

The first iPod MP3 music player was released on October 23, 2001, at an event in Cupertino and was able to hold up to 1,000 songs.

Steve Jobs unveils Apple Computer Corporation's new Macintosh February 6, 1984 in California.

Steve Jobs unveils Apple Computer Corporation’s new Macintosh February 6, 1984 in California.

The then Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Steve Jobs, with the iPhone

The then Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Steve Jobs, with the iPhone

2007: Apple unveils the iPhone. 

2010: The first iPad was unveiled.

2011: Jobs resigned in 2011 due to illness, handing the CEO title to Tim Cook. Job died in October from pancreatic cancer.

2014: Apple unveiled the Apple Watch. It also unveiled its first larger iPhones – the 6 and 6 Plus. 

2015: After purchasing Beats from Dr Dre, Apple launched Apple Music to compete with Spotify and other music streaming services. 

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks at an Apple event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks at an Apple event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

2016: Apple returned to its roots and announced the 4-inch iPhone SE. Meanwhile, the firm is embroiled in a legal battle with the FBI, involving the agency demanding access to the locked phone used by Syed Farook, who died in a shootout after carrying out a deadly December attack in San Bernardino, California with his wife. The court order was dropped on March 28 after the FBI said a third party was able to unlock the device.  

2017: Apple introduces the iPhone X, which removes the home button to make way for a futuristic edge-to-edge screen design and a new FaceID system that uses advanced sensors and lasers to unlock phones with just the owner’s face.    

2018: In a first for the company, Apple introduces new features in its latest operating system, iOS 12, that encourage users to manage and spend less time on their devices. The move was spawned by a strongly worded letter from shareholders that urged the firm to address the growing problem of smartphone addiction among kids and teenagers. 

2019: In January, Apple reports its first decline in revenues and profits in a decade. CEO Tim Cook partly blamed steep declines in revenue from China.

2020: In March, Apple closes all its bricks and mortar retail stores outside of China in response to coronavirus. 

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