It is often said that Apple is an innovative company. I'm not one of the people who say that. Apple, to me, is a design company. It didn’t invent the MP3 player, what it did do was make the best one on the market and helped further drive the digital music industry.
I remember those early days of MP3s. Napster brought the idea of digital music to the masses in 1999, but the mainstream opinion of it was of bedroom hackers stealing music. With the iPod and then iTunes Apple helped change digital music and the way that it was perceived.
I reviewed my first MP3 player in 2000 and it was a long way from the iPod. The Soulmate had a capacity of 16MB, yes that’s right, 16MB. It took two AAA batteries and would last two, perhaps three journeys from my flat in North London to my office by Tower Bridge. So if you were lucky you could listen to same three or four songs twice in one journey! And you thought your iPhone battery was bad!
The best MP3 players at that time were from Diamond with models such as the Rio. By modern standards though they weren’t that good. I remember they would crash often and also consume batteries at an eye-watering rate.
Other options that I remember reviewing include such devices as iomega's HipZip an offshoot of the company’s zip drive technology. This used the same storage format as those old Zip disks we used to have, a disk that offered more capacity than a floppy disk. These were the days before USB memory sticks.
I also remember reviewing my first one of those around the 2001, a 4MB one! You couldn’t give one of these away now, back then I had to sign a loan agreement form and it was couriered back to the company after my review.
Anyway back to the HipZip, when it worked it was good. However, only weeks after I started playing with it, it started to crash more and more. To cope with this I always made sure I had a paperclip with me that I could use to press in the reset button! Not soon after though it stopped working altogether.
What has this got to do with the iPod? Well Apple saw a gap in the market and made a device that people were looking for. With a sleek design, coupled with a simple scroll wheel interface and white headphones it took MP3s out into the mainstream.
So while we may be saying hello to some larger iPhones, spare a time to remember the lowly iPod. Yes it only did one thing, play music, but it did it well.