October 23, 2006

Happy Fifth Birthday to the iPod

The iPod music player is one of those iconic gadgets that seems like it's always been around, but still has that "new" feeling. Five years ago today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod to a hall full of tech journalists, calling the device a breakthrough. Though curious, the initial response to the iPod was mixed - what was Apple doing introducing a device that wasn't a computer? And why was Apple getting into the MP3 player business where so many other competitors (including Rio and SonicBlue) were already?

At work, I read reports of the debut with marked skepticism. It didn't seem like something I really wanted, and I couldn't figure out a place I would play it. After all, I am seemingly always near a computer or stereo at home, have a CD player in the car, and didn't anticipate listening at work. It certainly wasn't as if I would suddenly get fit, take up exercise and go jogging with the iPod in hand, and white earbuds playing the best of techno. In fact, when one person on an Apple message board said the device was most likely geared toward 24 year-old geeks, I (being a 24-year-old geek at the time) said I wasn't interested and wouldn't be getting one.

Of course - that all changed when I got home, and watched Steve Jobs' introduction on QuickTime from the Apple site. Not 12 hours after the iPod had been introduced to the world, I had gone to the Apple store and purchased one of the first iPods ever built. In fact, thanks to my thorough e-mail archives, I still have my proof of purchase before 10 p.m. that evening, thanking me for my order.

The price for the 5 gigabyte device?

$399, plus an estimated tax amount of $31.92, for a total order of $430.92, and it wasn't even expected to ship for another 3-4 weeks. Five years later, you can't walk a block without seeing somebody wearing an iPod, and they come in sizes from a mere 512 megabytes to 80 Gigabytes, in a variety of colors, and as cheaply as $79. Yet somehow, I don't feel ripped off.

The iPod, and along with it, iTunes, and the iTunes Music Store, reenergized the world of music for many people, who saw the industry under attack from thievery engines like Napster and Kazaa. The iTunes Music Store gave those of us yearning instant gratification for music a safe, legal alternative that didn't leave us feeling dirty after download. Apple had a mega-hit on its hands, and we were there from the very first day. Congratulations Apple - you've come a long way.

Listening to ''The DJ - In the Mix'', by ATB (Play Count: 13)