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20 years of the iPod (theguardian.com)
71 points by ingve on Oct 24, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 145 comments

Fun fact: the software, or at least the filesystem code, for the original IPod was developed on Windows because the ARM toolkit was windows based


Indeed, if you do embedded development it's somewhere between hard and impossible to avoid Windows, although it's still a horrific platform for software development compared to Linux or even macOS. Many tools are Windows-only or Windows-first.

Totally true.

I have seen even how some companies dropped supporting some of their hardware in Linux without any reasonable cause or problem (some models of TI MSP430), and having to use third party tools in order to continue working in Linux.

I am the 'grep' guy. If my colleagues can't find something because eclipse said no, they ask me to find it.

So you've got the island of Unix in a sea of Windows?

For some reason they chose the official ARM dev kit which was indeed windows based. But there has been a great GCC based dev tool chain since forever.

I do my embedded development pretty much exclusively using GCC on the Mac or Linux.

It probably was not nearly as good 20~ years ago as it is today unfortunately

It was pretty good back then too. However perhaps they thought the gui tool was important. Also windows was perhaps more likely to be used within Apple than a sun machine (remember the era we’re talking about). Then again all the CAD systems would have been on sun back then.

A bit surprising as of

Hardly. We're talking 22 years ago here.

Why wouldn't they just go with the official, well-supported tools

Well GCC was already eliminating a lot of proprietary tool chains in the embedded (as well as workstation) space. NeXT had paid us (Cygnus) for work on the gnu tool chain and it was by the time of the iPod the OS X toolchain (unlike the iPhone, the iPod used an embedded so not anything osx-ish).

ARM was one of the few embedded vendors not paying for GCC support. Our UK office was down the road from them in Cambridge and they asked us around a lot but always wanted the word done for free.

Fun fact 2: Most of Google was using Windows in the early 2000s because of the need for Outlook and similar software that was Windows-only as well.

Even now that Macs are an option in most FAANG+, most non-fresh-grad hires either pick Linux or Windows machines and completely avoid Macs.

>completely avoid Macs

As someone who normally attends quite a few tech conference events, that doesn't square remotely with what I see. Macs are out of all proportion to their percentage in the world at large. While it's harder to have an inventory of the rest, I assume they're mostly Linux given that one hardly ever sees a speaker presenting from a Windows laptop. [ADDED: This is in the context of events that are not Microsoft-centric.]

My understanding is that MacBooks are much less popular outside of North America, where they are indeed ubiquitous.

I wouldnt call them ubiquitous in north America by any stretch of the imagination. Popular in very specific fields and I agree. Their market share in the USA is 16 percent. That's getting clobbered by windows primarily

That's entirely possible. I go to a fair number of European events but there are a lot of North Americans at them as well. I wouldn't be at all surprised if pricing made MacBooks even more premium outside the US.

Depends on the industry. In embedded, I've only ever seen one person use a mac for work

In support for your first sentence, Macs were very unusual for techs in the valley until OSX. I ran a linux laptop for a long time until I gave in and stopped doing my own IT and got a Macbook.

Um, OS X was 20 years ago

Yup, I've been a mac user at work for the last 18 years. Before that it was linux on laptops.

To be fair at that time macs were extremely niche in every industry. Even graphics was dwindling. Now mac's are still niche just not as tiny as before

In the pre-OSX era, Macs were only found in significant numbers in the creative areas. With OSX, Macs became the defacto standard in software development.

In fact it comes in third place behind windows and linux

Sorry, that is wrong, I work at a FAANG (not apple) and have worked at plenty of startups and small to mid-sized companies. I can count the windows users on one hand. I know Walmart and contract engineers have massive office complexes around the US, they probably are all Windows due to the costs. I'd love to see your stats. https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2019#technology-_-...

Defacto standard? Lol not even close

I remember a story where a journalist sent an email with a tracking pixel to Tim Cook and it reported the user agent as being a Windows PC running Outlook.

I think this is the story you're talking about: https://www.wired.com/story/how-email-open-tracking-quietly-.... But it's pretty flimsy evidence. Undoubtedly Tim Cook has somebody, or more likely several somebodies handling his (external) email.

Most exec email goes through an executive assistant filter. With C-execs, usually a team.

In the USA, in the rest of the world Mac is just the machine to code against iOS and nothing else.

Most media producers today switched to Windows.

I still use my iPod Nano 7th Gen. It's just beautiful. Very lightweight, no Internet distractions, the hardware buttons for volume and next/prev are excellent to use when it's in your pocket, the screen is just the right size for showing and navigating names of albums and songs.

Only thing its missing is LDAC for Bluetooth. The difference is noticeable when you have headset that actually supports it.

The last ipod nano must be one of the most beautiful products that Apple ever made. A fantastic screen, unrivalled touch and extreme thinness conspire to make it an audio player that nothing else even approaches. It's tragic that it's such a dead end now. I hope one day Apple revives it because it's one of the most complete products out there. (more memory wouldn't hurt though)

I used a Nano 5th gen, the last to have a clickwheel, until 2019. It was primarily for use at the gym but because I mostly listened to podcasts and didn't want to try to keep everything synced with Mac, Nano, and iPhone, it was the only thing I used for portable audio.

I've switched to using an Apple Watch to have wireless headphones but it's not great; syncing to the Watch's storage (I don't want my phone on me at the gym) is slow and the Podcast app can be wonky. Just today it stopped playing an episode in the middle for no apparent reason and I couldn't get it to start again. Some of this may be because it's a Series 1 Watch but newer models seem too expensive for possibly not that much better an experience.

I also don’t want to take my expensive and distracting iPhone to the gym. To this day I use an iPod Shuffle. I have one playlist that I change over time in iTunes, sync up, and play on shuffle. And a new-in-box Shuffle pod in a drawer for when this one dies.

Can you use one of those dongles made for a car stereo?

> In October 2001, the music industry was riven by piracy and had no idea how to solve it. Enter Steve Jobs, whose new device created a digital music market – and made Apple into a titan

Enter Steve Jobs, whose new device was perfect for playing those 1000 MP3 tracks you just downloaded from file sharing networks.

Indeed, this is a ridiculous statement. The iTunes store didn't even launch until 2003, and I don't recall it actually competing with CD sales until several years after that. I suspect you'd find very few record label folks from that era who'd consider the ipod their "savior".

I'm tempted to say that this story uses hindsight to maybe give Apple at least a bit too much credit. When the iPod first came out it wasn't anything obviously special. The famous clicky wheel didn't come until I think the 4th generation and I believe iTunes was originally Mac only. And Macs were pretty fringe at the time.

And while legit digital music downloads would set the stage for today's online music scene, digital purchases were never that big a chunk of the market and declined fairly quickly given streaming.

> When the iPod first came out it wasn't anything obviously special.

It was special (if only for Mac users initially). The first iPod did have a physically turning wheel (the capacitive sensing clickety one that came later didn't turn). It also had 5 GB and Firewire, and synced your entire iTunes music library (with meta data, including playlists IIRC) over onto the iPod in a few minutes. The UI, polish, and speed combined to an experience that was way ahead of all the other MP3 players around at the time.

Edit to add: Also, btw, other MP3 players at the time used AA batteries typically, and required manually copying over music. The iPod would recharge and automatically sync with your iTunes library (including contacts and calendars) every time it was plugged in.

> And while legit digital music downloads would set the stage for today's online music scene, digital purchases were never that big a chunk of the market and declined fairly quickly given streaming.

First came iTunes, then iPod, then later the iTunes Music Store. There were virtually no legit digital music downloads at the time the iPod came out. Most people's digital library came from Napster (illicitly) or (legit) ripping their own CDs (recall Apple's excellent "Rip. Mix. Burn." commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pleybGLgaEc ).

BTW, the UK launch was on 2001-11-22 at the London MacExpo in Islington, London.

> When the iPod first came out it wasn't anything obviously special.

As the story notes, it was immediately "special" due to the polish, relative ease of use, and internal micro-HDD that allowed it to store far more music than any other player with any market penetration - while some prior models also used a hard drive and offered comparable capacity, it wasn't until the iPod came along with Apple's marketing behind it that portable digital players really started to displace portable CD players.

Remember, too, this was in 2001, well before flash had gotten as cheap and reliable as we're accustomed to today, and well before anyone was in the habit of encoding at higher quality than 128Kbps MP3 could provide - 5GB in a portable music player was huge.

Exactly. The same argument gets peddled out against any Apple product. There was a capacitive touch screen phone before the iPhone. There were app stores before the iPhone’s. There were music players with X before the iPad. Rinse and repeat.

Apples magic is the entire packaging and intuitiveness such that every layperson can use it. But that’s not on the spec sheet…

Apples magic is their advertising. They could sell shit to a horse.

The Archos Jukebox 6000 had 6GB HDD as a portable mp3 player one year earlier than the iPod.

The Archie Jukebox 6000 was freaking huge because it used a laptop sized HDD. It was portable much like a boom box was portable, but at the size of a CD player and a small stack of CD’s it wasn’t clearly better.

The 2001 iPod cost 400$, but it was smaller than a CD player (4.02inx2.43inx0.78in) and could hold 1,000 songs. That’s point where it could start to kill off personal CD players.

Exactly, the Archie Jukebox didn't fit into a jeans pocket. There were MP3 players that did fit into a jeans pocket, but they used flash, which at the time only had the capacity for a few CDs at most. So, it was the iPod with which you could carry your entire music library (or a good chunk of it, nearly 100 CDs) in your pocket.

Wikipedia also claims (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archos_Jukebox_series):

“The Jukebox is historically notable for shipping with a user interface and operating system so unfriendly and bug-ridden as to inspire Björn Stenberg and other programmers to develop a superior, free and open-source replacement operating system. This project became Rockbox.[citation needed]”

Anybody know whether that (especially the “so unfriendly and bug-ridden” part; that Rockbox started on that device seems less controversial to me) is true?

Yes, but nobody ever heard of it until it was mentioned as an also-ran in Wikipedia's article about DAPs. (That said, I did just finish updating my prior comment to reflect that the iPod wasn't the first HDD-based player to market, but I think it is still fair to say it was the first one that mattered.)

Kids had MP3 players before the iPod. I remember them in high school and yes they were a known music player alternative to CDs. The iPod landed with a unified marketing campaign that promoted itself as a music device vs an MP3 player. The marketing campaign was sleek and different.

But those flash based MP3 players didn't have much storage (certainly not several GB), and typically had a terrible UI, if they could handle meta data (song, artist, album, genre) at all.

Before the iPod, a DAP was an alternative to a Discman. After, it was the other way around - at first for rich kids whose families could afford the requisite Macs for iTunes, but once iTunes for Windows came out, a Discman was what you had if you were poor.

Even if they weren't nearly as ubiquitous as they would become, people absolutely had heard of DAPs before the iPod came out. And, like the iPhone, it took 2 or 3 generations before it was obvious to a lot of people that this was something different--in part because of the ecosystem.

Here for example, is a not very flattering account of the introduction from PC Magazine: https://web.archive.org/web/20011121170057/http:/www.interac...

And just for some context. I had a Rio MP3 flash player that came with 32mb of storage around that time. mb, not gb. Like 10 songs of space. I bought a 64mb card with it that cost more than the player did and setup some sort of thing with smart playlists in iTunes to create a playlist of 64mb of music from stuff I hadn't played recently so it could copy over with as little wasted space as possible.

The Creative NOMAD Jukebox was released in 2000 and had a 6GB hard drive.

It was fucking huge and was USB 1.1 so it took forever to load music on it. The originals iPod was much smaller (using a microdrive) and only supported FireWire. It could load music as fast as the drive could write.

And that is unrelated to the point that the iPod was a clone of existing tech. You might have liked it more, but that doesn't change the arrow of time.

The iPod as a clone of existing technology is uncharitable to the point of being foolish about it. Like so many successful products implementation is more important than a bill of materials.

The click wheel UI of the iPod made its large storage actually useful rather than just being a bullet point on a box. If you had a thousand songs loaded on your iPod it was pretty easy to navigate to any album, artist, or playlist.

Most other PMPs (even after the iPod) had UIs that were basically lifted from the Walkman. Navigating HDD players was a pain in the ass.

Besides the click wheel UX the iPod had iTunes doing the heavy lifting of library management. It made editing and adding metadata to songs, which helped organize your library, very easy. That same organization completely carried over to the iPod. iTunes also supported automatically syncing an attached iPod so if you ripped a CD it appeared on your iPod after plugging it in.

Most of the competing HDD based PMPs were obsessed with just acting as mass storage devices when attached to a computer. So they had painful on-device UIs dealing with the multitude of differing naming conventions and poorly tagged files.

So while HDD players weren't invented by Apple they:

1. Made an HDD player small enough to fit in a pocket competing in dimensions with Flash based players.

2. Made a UI that allowed easy navigation of a large library.

3. Used a high speed connection that made it trivial to fill the large storage. This same connection also charged the device.

4. Had a very responsive UI not limited to the seek speed of the internal HDD. The iPod let iTunes do the hard work of creating the on device database. The iPod OS didn't need to go read metadata from every file to populate menus or display song information. It did the hard work once (in iTunes) and just used the database for everything but audio data from then on.

The NOMAD used a large laptop drive that wasn't pocketable and used a lot of power. Apple bought exclusive music player rights to Toshiba's tiny drive giving them a temporary monopoly.

You could take it apart though which was nice. When mine was on it's last legs, hard-drive clicking to death, I swapped in a cheap 250gb laptop drive and could finally carry all of my music library around instead of having to pick and choose.

Upgraded to a Zune after the battery on my Zen died. The screen and UI were great imo, sad it didn't stick around.

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

> When the iPod first came out it wasn't anything obviously special.

No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

(for those unaware, back in 2001 Slashdot was the premier location on the internet for talking about tech. This was the summary review from the Slashdot founder, Rob Malda. It's a facinating example of how early tech adopters might understand the features, but would easilly mistake what was important in a massmarket)

While true, Apple also iterated (and took advantage of higher capacity disk drives). It took until the 4th generation to get the iconic version of the click wheel. It also took some time for Apple to offer iTunes on Windows. So while some of us could have been more forward looking at the time, it wasn't obviously a world-changing product out of the gate.

The iPod's wheel was distinctive immediately. The click wheel was just a refinement.

Windows support followed within 9 months. Do you think it wasn't planned before launch?

I thought the 1st generation had the best click wheel.

So what I'm getting from this thread is there are no reasons why the iPod would become successful, would go on to dominate the portable music player market and reconcile the music publishers with digital downloads. In fact, it seems most likely that those things didn't happen at all, and if they did it was because of Apple's magic marketing which is cheating, rather than real reasons.

In fact it’s amazing anyone at all bought one, considering its software wasn’t written in Rust.

The first iPod had the wheel, which was the revelation. The later clickwheel was just an iteration. And the iPod had FireWire, which meant you didn’t have to wait all day to move your music over USB.

USB 1.1 moved data at 12 Mb/s and carried insufficient power to charge an iPod. Whereas FireWire shifted data at 400 Mb/s. That difference was huge.

Apple didn’t come out with USB support for the iPod until USB 2.0 became a common feature on PCs, with it’s theoretical speed of 480 Mb/s (in my experience of real-world use it was actually still slower than FireWire 400) and sufficient power.

FireWire also charged it while you were loading music. You plugged it in, stuff got loaded, and the battery topped off. You didn't burn through the battery while it took an hour to load an album like USB 1.1 players.

Sometimes I forget how painfully slow usb 1.x was! I had an external drive and copying a few cds worth of music would take hours.

Digital sales out-revenued streaming until sometime 2014ish, and there was a window in which that happened while it also beat out physical formats.

And it "declined fairly quickly given streaming" because buffet streaming services basically fucked with the economics to offer a product designed to replace recording collections while paying a fraction of the price... and fractionalizing revenue to those who create the content. Or in other words, solving piracy by merging the economic model of piracy with an updated middleman model and capturing as much value as possible in between.

I can hardly recall anyone having an MP3 player that wasn’t an iPod when I was young.

Other than that Sony and the Zune are all that I remember seeing and that was very rare.

There’s also the ecosystem to consider. Cars, gyms, hotels all started offering ways to connect an iPod. Accessories for iPods were everywhere.

If you remember the Zune you're talking about a later period. The Zune wasn't introduced until 2006, just before the iPhone. The other MP3 players people are talking about here were early 2000s.

Yes, but iPods were popular well after the first iPhone because many people and especially young people couldn’t afford them and they had limited carrier availability. Also MP3 players in the early years were hardly common before the iPod that I can remember.

iTunes for Windows is what made Apple a trillion dollar company.


The iPod would have languished and died otherwise, and it certainly wouldn't have put Apple on track (and swelling with cash) to do iPhone later on.

Remember when they made iMessage for Android and WhatsApp never happened?

Oh wait, that part didn't happen.

WhatsApp was around before iMessage, so it being available on Android wouldn't have prevented WhatsApp. BBM on other platforms might have.

>I'm tempted to say that this story uses hindsight to maybe give Apple at least a bit too much credit. >When the iPod first came out it wasn't anything obviously special.

Well, it kind of was. It was the only player with the click wheel interface, and the only one that supported Firewire. This gave it the advantage of being generally easy to use and was very fast and convenient to load music. It also looked pretty good (I wanted one the minute I saw it).

With the downsides being that 1. it was pretty expensive and 2. that it had an in built hard-drive that didn't really enjoy being bumped about too much (my 3rd gen died with the HDD) so you had to treat it carefully.

However they iterated pretty quickly after that, adding Windows support, USB, colour hi-res screens and massively reducing the size whilst also reducing the price. All of this allowed them to outstrip the competition so much that they were pretty soon one of the very few players left in that market.

The very first iPod had a clickwheel. It took a few generations before it was touch sensitive instead of a physically rotating wheel.

Click wheel was Apple's term for the touch sensitive wheel with integrated buttons. But reviews praised the iPod's interface before the click wheel.

The first two generations had a ring of buttons around the wheel rather than a touchwheel; menu at the top, play/pause at the bottom and skip backwards and forwards on the left and right. The third gen moved these buttons to between the wheel and the screen. Fourth was clicky wheel, I believe.

Am I the only one who considered the touch wheel a regression? I really liked my iPod with physical clicky spinning wheel

The spinning wheel also had some inertia, which was really neat. You could give it a good spin and it would slowly "roll out". I think they tried to emulate that with the round capacitive touch thingy ("click wheel"), but that wasn't quite as nice. I guess it was more dust/dirt/water resistant, though.

No, it was a common complaint at the time when the touch wheel was introduced. They became a lot more ubiquitous after the touch wheel introduction though, but I don't think that was directly related...

> iTunes was originally Mac only

When Apple made iTunes for Windows, Steve Jobs called it “It's like giving somebody a glass of hell in ice water.” [1]

I mean, was Windows Media Player really that bad? I still miss the visualizations and even the fancy skins. iTunes in comparison was very dull and barely changed in 20 years.

[1] https://500ish.com/a-time-to-kill-itunes-2d9a24529b9a

Your link puts the quote "It's like giving somebody a glass of ice water in hell", which makes far more sense.

And WMP was awful, and got more awful each time. Winamp on the other hand was great, it really kicked the llama's ass.

whips, not kicked

Hey it's been 20 years, at least it wasn't "licked" :D

I mean, was Windows Media Player really that bad?

It is probably the primary reason I told the spouse to “get in the car, we’re going to the Apple Store to buy iPods.” As a Microsoft employee at the time, I’d had my fill of trying to make Microsoft’s shit music player ecosystem work out of some misplaced sense of company loyalty. Playlists wouldn’t sync, and all kinds of that ilk I’ve long since forgotten. And that’s before we get to PlaysForSure…

There were decidedly better programs than iTunes for Windows PCs. At the time, I was very into curating the genres etc. of my music collection and used a program called J River Media Center or something like that. I only stopped using it when Apple essentially made it impossible for 3rd party programs to be fully functional.

WMP was terrible as a music player. That’s why Winamp and Foobar exist.

> digital purchases were never that big a chunk of the market

There was a 4-year stretch where paid downloads were the leading source of revenue for the music industry.


I guess it depends on the source of the numbers. Eyeballing this chart [1] it doesn't look as if downloads were ever the majority. (In any case, they weren't for long.)

[1] https://www.statista.com/chart/amp/4713/global-recorded-musi...

If you are including YouTube streaming then yes ad revenue from this wasn’t that late to the game, but Spotify and pandora took over a decade to grow any meaningful market share.


I wasn’t a Mac user back then, but when the original iPod was revealed, I was blown away by its looks, and it was something we talked about at the office.

I don’t know what was so special about the 4th generation clock wheel though…

First iPod was 2001; first iPhone was 2007.

Apple developed a category of their own, and then killed it themselves.

It never pays to be perfect. The ipod nano evolved to become everything it could possibly be and then died a natural death of stagnation mixed with increasing irrelevance. I wonder if the smartphone will reach a similar equilibrium until the manufacture and os become irrelevant. Obviously Big Tech are trying hard to tip the balance the other way so that their platforms grow ever more apart and increasingly isolated.

I assume a smartphone successor would involve wearables that make a palm-sized slab of glass in your pocket unnecessary. Don't really see that on the horizon but most people have only owned a smartphone for 10 years or so at this point so these technology shifts are over very short periods of time by historical standards.

Replacing something in your pocket isn't really the problem, the watch with a built in cellular connections can already do that just fine. It's replacing a 6"+ touch screen retina display in your hands that's the problem. So far wearables have no answer to that.

Yes, it's about the interface.

On re-reading I realise my comment cold have come off as sarcastic, but I genuinely imagined in in a conversational tone. Clearly you didn't mean literally in your pocket. Yep, too often the conversation about wearables is that eventually they will become 'good enough' that they will replace the phone, but 'wearable' is a mode of transport, not an interface. It's not at all clear to me that the touch screen interface is going to get replaced by anything else in my lifetime.

I did take it as being a bit pedantic :-)

You're right though. I don't think anyone has any real concept of a general purpose interface for easily wearable devices that replaces a phone/tablet.

We pretty much know it's not voice. And it's not tapping on and looking at a watch. Those can work for simple and/or specialized interactions but not in the general case. Maybe AR glasses and some sort of new mode of input device? But we're certainly nowhere near that today.

Don't forget iPod touch which allowed Apple to slowly develop most of the iPhone features (e.g touch UI) and test it with customers before announcing the iPhone.

The iPod Touch (September 2007) was announced after the iPhone (June 2007).

What probably most killed the market for the iPod Touch is that, once the iPhone was out in the market for a few years, hand me down phones replaced the need to buy a new Touch.

Fond memories of my click wheel ipod, but I actually just bought a relatively generic MP3 player and am thrilled with it. Wrote about it here: https://therandymon.com/index.php?/archives/360-The-MP3-Play...

The hardware/software are nowhere as slick as that old ipod. But the freedoms this device give me serve as a reminder that all of the constraints of an ipod (one per user, no library comingling, needs itunes, etc.) were artificially imposed by a hardware striving to maximize hardware sales (and placate the music industry).

From your blog:

> Finally, here's what drove the purchase: I was taking a long car trip, and my wife was doing the DJ work using my device. Of course, every time she wanted to change tracks I had to unlock the device with my fingerprint. Ridiculous. This little device solved that problem

Wouldn't telling her your phone's code, or temporarily adding one of her fingerprints to it for the duration of the journey, have been a much simpler solution...?

> Wouldn't telling her your phone's code, or temporarily adding one of her fingerprints to it for the duration of the journey, have been a much simpler solution...?

The assumption (I guess?) is that you want to keep your phone private from everyone including your spouse.

Which kind of makes sense if you think of it as an external part of your (cyber)brain, rather than a shared computing device.

Apple devices are very personal. There may be guest modes but that’s not the point, they are too multipurposed and yet artificially limited. A good generic music player is a straight forward stand alone device. Where they fail is where the content is online on some service

Sure, but the complaint was written as it being annoying having to constantly unlock it for her to have access to it, not wanting to prevent her from having access to it.

The iTunes Remote app may be handy in similar situations:


> all of the constraints of an ipod (one per user, no library comingling, needs itunes, etc.) were artificially imposed by a hardware striving to maximize hardware sales (and placate the music industry).

Last I checked, you could share an iPod between multiple users via a headphone splitter. You could also use it with multiple computers/iTunes libraries if you turn off automatic syncing. iTunes also introduced DAAP playlist sharing/streaming, which was great for university networks before the rise of Spotify/Apple Music/etc..

Most hardware companies want to maximize hardware sales, but Apple unfortunately had to placate the music industry, as you note.

Which kind of paid off eventually in terms of DRM-free iTunes Plus music in 2009, but sadly it made it hard to move music off of an iPod.

I wonder if earlier editions of SoundJam/iTunes supported copying music in both directions?

> constraints of an ipod (one per user)

Do you mean one user per iPod? (because you could obviously have many iPods per user... Apple certainly didn't object :)

But yes, you couldn't use iPods to merge iTunes libraries among friends. For that, you needed an external hard drive (and you could mount the original iPod as an external hard drive and copy the music over, but then those mp3s were seen as data, not music, and could not be played...). And once the iTunes music store got introduced, music you bought there was DRM'd, so that complicated things further.

But I don't think it was deliberately designed to "maximize hardware sales". You could easily wipe it and sync to another user in a few minutes (the original Firewire had 100 to 400 Mbit/s, so say 3 to 10 minutes to replace the entire 5 GB library, so quicker than charging it).

I'd venture that the constraints were demanded by the music industry, not imposed by Apple to maximise hardware sales (how is "needs iTunes" maximising hardware sales?).

Do you have a name or a link for that MP3 player?

It's exactly the specs I want (even has sort by genre! I couldn't find that anywhere), but most of the cheap Chinese-made ones I found online had very poor reviews.

The window of people who will be nostalgic about iPods is smaller than those who have nostalgia for 8-track tapes.

It's an entire product category that swept in and had less than a decade of relavence before getting washed out in the tide.

I guess they were really only relevant for maybe 5 years, ~2005-2010. It primed Apple to make the iPhone (which is huge), but it ended up being a bridge technology between CDs and streaming.

Spotify launched in the US in July 2011, that is well into the smartphone era. By then the iPhone 3g had been out for about 2 years.

Without the iPod, there would be no iPhone. Simple as that.

Of course, most people haven't had smartphones for more than a decade at this point. (Certainly not much longer on the outside especially if you exclude Blackberries.) Not that smartphones are likely to evaporate anytime soon.

The ipod didn't shuffle music and tech into a new era. The iTunes store did. The iTunes store could've turned any PMP into a titan. One could even argue it was Rio's successful legal defense of the concept of a PMP that laid the foundation for the entire industry.

A shame the only option today is the iPod Touch. Might as well just use an old phone...

I was surprised that Apple still sells the iPod. It is not on the front page of their store, but if you search for it, there it is sporting a new’ish A10 chip.

Looking at the specifications, it would not be a bad device for traveling if you object to phone for privacy reasons. Really light weight.

Original discussion is here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24188791

Microsoft is still working on a Zune 'iPod killer'.

The most famous use of a Zune is almost certainly the quip in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 -- "It's called a Zune. It's what everybody's listening to on Earth nowadays. It's got three hundred songs on it."

The ipod, perhaps more than google, was the harbinger of the downward spiral of microsoft's iron grip on the tech industry.

The somewhat remarkable thing to me--and maybe it reflects how large dominant companies can be very resilient to market changes and competition--is that, under Nadella, Microsoft has been able to largely thrive. In spite of basically losing mobile in multiple form factors and device types, to say nothing of search, maps, etc.

That is due to increased download bandwidth everywhere, especially due to advances in mobile network technology, meant that computing could be offloaded from devices to the cloud. Of course, the cloud requires huge capital expenditures, and who better to capitalize on it than the incumbent giants.

> say nothing of search, maps, etc.

They're too busy selling OS licensees, Office licenses, cloud services, and running Xbox break-even.

I think the iPod competed more with Sony than Microsoft.

directly sure, but it was a catalyst to apple's climb to the position it holds now.

If we're going all nostalgic, remember the free ipod sites?

TIL there is still an iPod for sale.

And now, iFumes^W Apple Music is ruining it all. More profits for Apple, worse experience for users.

C'mon, don't you want to hear the new Billie Eilish album in Dolby Atmos? Guess you aren't a true audiophile then...

If it were only that. Have you tried the iPhone Music app with something not downloaded from Apple Music or the iTunes store? Like, music sampled from CDs or bought on Bandcamp or somewhere else? It will challenge your creativity.

I have an iTunes library that I’ve been working on since at least 2004 that contains music from all sorts of sources, including tracks from Apple Music and recent additions from bandcamp. Haven’t had any issues. The UI indicating what has/hasn’t synced with the cloud could be better, but otherwise it’s fine.

I don’t feel like Apple Music is particularly pushy either, at least compared to Spotify. Music.app also doesn’t have its UI changing constantly for no reason, also unlike Spotify.

I have a library that is a mix of Apple Music, iTunes Match and mp3s from some wild sources. It works nicely in the music app and is provided as an OS-level service to other player frontends. Seems great to me.

It‘s a huge issue that you cannot add music from an iOS device though. You need to do that from a mac.

Yes, I download it from Bandcamp and iTunes Match adds it to the rest of my devices. Easy!

Is iTunes Match a separate subscription? I'm not happy with Google Music ever since they rolled it into Youtube Music, which has similar issues as the Music app now, where they're more interested in selling you more subscriptions than letting you play the music you already own. But I'm already paying for iCloud storage, so can I just use the space I'm already paying for to store my music?

It is a separate subscription [1], and hardly advertised at all anymore. I use it instead of Apple Music, and pay 188 HKD/a, that's around US$ 25 per year.

Here's basically what it does:

* you add your music library to it.

* what it recognises, it matches, and upgrades to 256 kbit/s AAC encoded quality.

* what it doesn't recognise, it uploads and stores.

* all of it is now available on all your devices (and you can download/delete local copies at will).

I was thinking of "upgrading" to Apple Music (as part of Apple One), and I'd hate if that functionality (specifically the uploading/syncing of "unmatched" songs) were removed!

[1] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204146

Ah, another subscription. Things like that used to work without having to pay ransom. Apple deliberately deteriorated the user experience to bully us into buying those subscriptions.

If you manage your music library via iTunes, you can sync with USB or WiFi and not pay at all, just like back in 2001 (though back then it was Firewire).

I think they’ve quietly integrated it into Apple Music? Haven’t paid for iTunes Match in like 5 years, and it still works fine.

I love Louis Rossman's video about why he does not use Apple products. Near the beginning, he talks about how he worked in a recording studio, and people would bring in background music they wanted to sing along with on MP3 players, and he was used to just copying files off. Which worked just fine until he encountered his first iPod:


The other mp3 players didn’t get MPAA’s approval because they allowed copying music, ie “they were tools for piracy”.

Apple’s system was genius: It could only synchronize with the system it came from, making it a peripheral of the computer, not a node in a network. This restriction lived on for the iPhone, making Apple fans curse and Android fans laugh, when a computer was required to install an iPhone, for years and years after it wasn’t technically necessary. But binding with 1 (one) computer was the agreement if Apple wanted to host music under benevolence from the labels.

Apple would have never been able to get agreements with music labels if the iPod had been open. And thus, it lived on, while all other mp3-player brands died.

It is a consequence of the music industry and an emergent property of IP laws, not a standalone decision from Apple, as opposed to making all their products closed-source, which they don’t have to.

FWIW, you can trivially pirate music from an iTunes library [1] with an external hard drive or USB stick or, in fact, an iPod mounted as an external drive. You could also play music from an iPod that was plugged in, IIRC, which should have been enough for the recording studio/karaoke use case. But you couldn't just copy music from an iPod to your own library, indeed (I doubt the music industry would've gone along with that for very long, either).

[1] except DRM'd music, such as music purchased on the iTunes Store between its debut in 2003 and 2009.

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