The first iPod was introduced in October 2001 at the MacExpo in Islington, London (I was there!) It was the classic 5gb model, and boasted the opportunity to carry “1000 songs in your pocket”. It had the scroll wheel, as was to become the symbol for all iPods. This one however, unlike all later models, was actually a free-moving, rotating disk that spun on bearings. The scroll wheel adjusted volume and allowed navigation through the menu system (which, incidentally, was based around the new “column view” in Mac OS X), using the centre button to select. Around the outside of the wheel were 4 buttons allowing play, skip forward, skip back and return to menu.
Its screen was a black and white 160x120, and displayed song information such as title and album, and also had a very bright backlight. The screen was to stay the same for all standard iPods. For input, the iPod took Firewire, as opposed to the more prevalent USB 1.1. Firewire offered much faster transfers and also allowed it to be charged, both through a computer and through a very clever power adapter. The adapter looked like most current Apple ones, with interchangeable plug heads and a cuboidal brick directly behind. Instead of having a cable running from the brick to the iPod, the charger had a single, centrally placed Firewire socket, allowing any cable to be used to charge the iPod. The Firewire also allowed the iPod to be plugged into the Mac and it would auto-sync with iTunes. It also could be used as an external Firewire hard drive.
In March ’02 Apple introduced a 10gb model, and in July ’02 the added solid-state trackpads as the scroll wheel, although the 5gb kept the mechanical one. In July they also added a 20gb, and dropped prices of the other models. The iPod also became compatible with Windows users for the first time, using MusicMatch jukebox, which wasn’t the greatest of MP3 of software. These models remained until..
April 2003, with the introduction of the “Dock connector” or 3rd generation iPods.
The big change in this model was the updated look & feel. Gone were the solid buttons around the wheel, which were moved to a row below the screen, and they became backlit and touch-sensitive. The new iPods were also considerable thinner and lighter than the previous model. Unfortunately the payoff was that batter life was down from 10 hours to 8. Another big change was the removal of the Firewire port. This was replaced with a dock connector on the bottom. While this made it easier to integrate with a stereo and to sync with a computer, it meant that the ease of the charger and any Firewire cable was gone. Instead to had to take special cables and adapters. And because the socket was on the bottom, it could not be left upright unless you used the dock. The Pros certainly outweighed the Cons, and the new connector allowed USB 2.0 to be used for the first time. It also opened up the chance for special peripherals, such as the Belkin media reader and external battery power. Up top there was new remote connector, replacing the fiddly extra ring on the 1st and 2nd gen. IPods. This also allowed the use of more peripherals, such as voice recorders.
The iPod came originally in three sizes, 10, 15 and the fabled 30gb. Not many people believe that there was a 30gb model, but there was, and I now some people who have them. In September 03 the sizes were updated to 10, 30 and 40gb. Then in January the 10gb was upgraded to 15gb. This didn’t change again until all models were dropped in July ’04…
When the 4th generation iPod was released, or the Click-Wheel, as it was known was released. It went back to its original roots, with the row of buttons removed. These were replaced with a click wheel similar to the one found on the iPod mini. This was a much more natural evolution from the design of the original iPod. For the first time the iPod colour scheme had changed, with the click-wheel now in grey. The dock and remote and other ports remained the same, but the model itself was slightly thinner and lighter. It boasted an update battery life up to 12 hours, and is available only in 20 and 40gb models.
The first iPod variant was the iPod mini, announced in January 2004. It was the width and height of a business card, and boasted a 4gb hard drive, which made it good for around 1000 songs. The screen is smaller than the iPod’s, at 138x110, and as such uses a slightly different screen font, which some beady eyed users may recognise from the Newton. The decrease in size meant a change in controls, and for this Apple developed the click-wheel, which would later be seen on the 4th gen. iPods. This allowed all the controls to be used in a space the size of the average scroll wheel. The mini is available in 5 colours, green, gold, blue, silver and pink. Despite its fairly high pricing (only $50 cheaper than the full size iPod) demand has always outstripped supply, and as such they can often command a premium.
As it sports a dock connect, it can use many of the accessories for the main iPod.
In October 2004 Apple introduced two new iPod variants, the U2 iPod and the iPod Photo. The U2 iPod was announced with the help of the band themselves, and boasts their signatures laser engraved on the back of the iPod. The U2 also has a changed colour scheme, of black with a red Click-wheel in the middle. Only available in 20gb form, it comes with a free U2 poster, and a discount on the complete U2 catalogue on the iTunes Music Store. In all other respects it is the same as the 4th Generation click-wheel iPod.
Also introduced in October 2004 was the iPod Photo. This was the first iPod with a colour screen. It offers a 16-bit, 160x128 screen. The user interface is slightly redesigned, and now uses the Myriad typeface. Available both in 40gb and the larger 60gb, the photo comes with a special dock allowing output of images to screens via S-video. The Photo has been bulked up a little by the larger hard drives and also by a bigger battery, offering up to 15 hours of music or 5 hours of photo slideshows with music. It also can sync with both iTunes and iPhoto, allowing you to carry your entire photo library with you. But perhaps one of the most interesting features is its ability to display embedded album artwork whilst listening to mp3 files.