Yesterday Apple announced it had sold over 100 million iPods.
Damn, that’s a lot of iPods.
I’m not one to brag, but without my help, Apple might have had to wait nearly another .0000136 seconds for its Official iPod Odometer to reveal that important ninth digit. I’m writing, of course, about my collection of iPods, the glories of which I will now recount.
iPod # 172
My very first iPod was among the number passed out to members of the press at the conclusion of the iPod’s initial unveiling. It held an astounding (at the time) 5GB of music—the legendary “1,000 songs in your pocket”—included a FireWire port, worked only with Macs, and lacked such niceties as contacts and calendars, notes, a clock, scrubbing during playback, and even music shuffling.
These were beta models that Apple asked to be returned so they could be replaced with the shipping version. (What made them beta was the existence of a data port on the motherboard that didn’t exist in The Real Thing.) Regrettably, by the time Apple asked for mine, it was in pieces.
Because the original iPod shipped without a case—and third-parties had yet to manufacture such things—I was tasked by Macworld to see how much abuse an iPod could take before it came a cropper. The answer: Two drops on concrete while jogging and another two drops while bicycling at high speed.
As you might imagine, the subsequent phone call with Apple Loans was a little uncomfortable.
After swearing I would never, ever intentionally break another free iPod (a promise I’ve kept, though I’ve unintentionally destroyed my fair share of the little buggers), Apple replaced the beta iPod with this one. And yes, I sent the beta back in pieces. This one eventually became my “Hey, let’s take apart and iPod and drool at what’s inside!” model (and was featured in a TechTV Screen Savers segment that’s made its way to YouTube).
It still works, houses an upgraded battery as well as a 15GB hard drive salvaged from a third-generation iPod that was a victim of friendly fire.
My 10GB second-generation iPod. Old manual scroll wheel was replaced by a touch-sensitive wheel (but not a clickwheel), plastic cover over the FireWire port. This one eventually went to my niece who broke it within days.
The 20GB version of the 2G iPod for Windows. Yes, in those days Apple made an iPod specifically for Windows users. The difference between it and a “Mac” iPod? The MusicMatch software bundled with it. (A Windows version of iTunes wasn’t yet available. And yes, the MusicMatch software was awful.)
I just picked it up and, good lord, I can’t believe how this once sleek and sexy music player now feels like it was designed in an under-funded mid-70s Soviet satellite.
If Apple’s willingness to send along free hardware tells you anything about the success of a product we can count the 2G iPod as the time when the company began to realize it had a huge hit on its hands. This was the last free iPod I received from Apple. Future requests were met with a stony silence.
iPod # 2,213,896
First 15GB third-generation iPod—the one with the four touch-sensitive buttons above the scroll wheel.
Second 15GB third-generation iPod that replaced the first one, which suffered from the overheated-iPod-black-screen-of-death.
Third 15GB third-generation iPod that replaced the second one, which likewise suffered from the OiBSoD.
By this time I was working on the third edition of my book, Secrets of the iPod . In the first edition I ripped apart the iPod and snapped a few pictures so readers could see its intimate parts. This digital strip show became a regular feature of the next few editions (this was before websites raced to eviscerate new hunks of hardware, as is all-too-common today) and I needed shots of the 3G iPod for the latest edition. This one I broke because I didn’t realize there was a data cable glued to the inside of the back plate and opening it from top to bottom was a bad thing. Its hard drive replaced the 5GB hard drive in my first-generation iPod.
Fourth 15GB third-generation iPod that replaced the one I’d broken. Still have it. Still don’t care for those buttons.
My first 4GB iPod mini—blue. On the day Steve Jobs announced the iPod mini at Macworld Expo Leo Laporte and I, on TechTV’s Call For Help, declared the mini far too expensive and sure to tank.
We were, uh, really, really wrong.
This mini convinced me that pulling apart iPods for the sake of revealing their guts to the world was a job best left to steadier and more patient hands. I cut my hand badly and wound up destroying the poor thing. I still occasionally dangle a baggy filled with its many parts in front of children with aspirations of getting into the technical journalism biz as a lesson in what can happen.
Its 4GB flash drive works in my LaCie USB card media reader. I occasionally jack it in for old times sake.
The replacement 4GB iPod mini—silver this time. Sure, it feels a little bulky nowadays, but that clickwheel was just so right.
20GB fourth-generation iPod. The clickwheel comes to the full-sized iPod. The form is just about right but, ewww, that monochrome screen.
40GB fourth-generation iPod.
Over the course of writing about iPods for as long as they’ve existed I’ve received countless messages from people outlining the bizarre behavior of their iPods—the thing will mount but not appear in iTunes, it stutters when playing purchased music but not other music, it crashes when shuffling but no other time, etc—and, until I owned this iPod, I scratched my head and replied, “Huh.”
I now reply, “You think your iPod has problems, listen to this!”
The damned thing is haunted, I swear. It syncs with some computers but not others, if it won’t sync over USB it will over FireWire and vice versa, it screeches on occasion, green goo flows from its dock connector when there’s a full moon…. You get the idea. I keep it around simply to see what it will do next.
60GB iPod photo. Again, very cool at the time but now really bulky-looking compared to the 5G iPod. Lost this one at a Macworld Expo after being in too much of a hurry to clean up after an iPod talk. Creepy too, because it had a lot of pictures of my family. I hope whoever found it quickly erased its contents to mask its identity.
Replacement for 60GB iPod photo. I told Mac Publishing’s Rick LePage my tale of woe at losing the iPod Photo while he and I were speaking with Cliff Colby, one of my book editors at Peachpit Press (and a former colleague of Rick’s at MacWEEK ). Perhaps to shock Cliff with his largesse he offered, “So, you want a new one?” Cliff, who still didn’t own an iPod, gaped and nearly started crying. I felt badly enough about it to pass along one of my old iPods to Cliff (but not so badly that I turned down Rick’s generous offer.)
Much as I liked the form of this first-generation 512MB iPod shuffle, I wasn’t crazy about the cap. I lose things easily and I was sure to lose the cap that covered its male USB connector. I came up with a very ugly hack in short order.
I let nearly 18 million iPods pass by before getting the next one. The iPod U2 Special Edition was special only to the extent that it came in black and red and included a poster of The Boys and a discount on the Complete U2 sold by the iTunes Music Store. The color-screen iPods were just Photo iPods without the Photo name.
Finally the original iPod nano came along. We got one before just about anyone else. Easily smudged, perhaps easily scratched, but man, what a beauty. This one lives in the car and mainly holds the Disney music my daughter adores.
Oh sweet. Beautiful bright screen, video, and pictures you don’t have to squint to see. This 60GB 5G iPod is lovely—not too big, not too fat, and it holds lots and lots of media.
iPods #68,461,889; 68,461,890; 68,461,891
The versions of the mini, mini—the second-generation iPod nano in 2, 4, and 8GB capacities (silver, blue, and black, respectively). Yes, the original nano was very nice, but attracted smudges the second you removed the packing plastic. The brushed aluminum nano is more solid in the hand and its screen is bright enough to read by.
These things are so pretty, like little jewels, it’s hard to image that Apple can create a more elegant small-form, display-bearing iPod. It will, of course, and these will look clunky in comparison, but for now, wow.
My first black, full-sized iPod, the 80GB fifth generation iPod (late 2006). Forget the new alphanumeric search feature—too cumbersome to use routinely. The brighter screen is welcome, though, as is the higher capacity. Before the Apple TV came along, this baby served as the handshake between my computer and TV.
iPods #87,033,135; 87,139,994
Two second generation iPod shuffles—one shipped via the online Apple Store and, because it didn’t come quickly enough, one picked up from a retail Apple Store. If, like the folks I see moving about San Francisco aboard MUNI busses and streetcars, I did nothing but listen to music and podcasts on the way to and from work, I’d likely put these iPods to better use. In some areas it’s not a good idea to reveal the iPod model you own. If you’re going to leave it in your pocket anyway, why not use a cheap model that won’t tempt you to fiddle with its controls?
So no commuting for me, but once I start exercising again, I’ll break these bad boys out of storage.
23 iPods in all and each has a tale to tell. With over 100 million iPods in the wild surely you own at least one as well. What’s your story?