Last month, the original iPod turned 20 years old. The iPod was the genesis of a totally different kind of Apple — an Apple willing to enter new markets and make the best version of that new thing.
…the iPod was one of the first times Apple showed up and did what we now think of as their standard move — they made The Apple Version®. It was personal, well-designed, innovative, meaningful, the sum of which was more than specs and checklists. We (I? The industry?) needed that. I have fond memories of Dave (who now works on Playdate) reverse-engineering the iPod database storage format so that you could use Audion to load songs onto it. I remember how plain fun it was to use — that click wheel, the original fidget toy! It was cool that I could use it as a tiny portable hard drive. The iPod was really good.
Now, there are a lot of mysteries in the Panic Archives (it’s a closet) but by far one of the most mysterious is what you’re seeing for the first time today: an original early iPod prototype.
We don’t know much about where it came from. But we’ve been waiting 20 years to share it with you.
It’s quite large! It has the Jobsian benefit of keeping the engineers in the dark about what the final device will look like. Inside it’s quite small! And a lot of wasted space!
Clearly, this revision of the prototype was very close to the internals of the finished iPod. In fact, the date there — September 3rd, 2001 — tells us this one was made barely two months before it was introduced.
That little thing sticking out of the right side is a JTAG, which allowed for easier on-device debugging.
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