iPod Digital Music Player Turns Five On this day five years ago, the iPod music player from Apple was introduced. It caught the attention of music lovers, both for what it could do -- allow them to fit much of their music in their pocket -- and for the way it looked.
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iPod Digital Music Player Turns Five

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iPod Digital Music Player Turns Five

iPod Digital Music Player Turns Five

iPod Digital Music Player Turns Five

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On this day five years ago, the iPod music player from Apple was introduced. It caught the attention of music lovers, both for what it could do — allow them to fit much of their music in their pocket — and for the way it looked.


On Mondays, the business report focuses on technology, and that is appropriate because this Monday is the birthday of iPod. The digital music player debuted five years ago today.

Here's NPR's Laura Sydell.

LAURA SYDELL: The singer Madonna has never been one to miss out on a trend. The iPod is no exception. When Madonna finally let the online iTunes Store carry her music, she made an appearance via videophone at the 2005 MacWorld Conference in San Francisco. Apple CEO Steve Jobs asked her if she had an iPod.

MADONNA (Musician): Of course I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STEVE JOBS (CEO, Apple): Which one?

MADONNA: That's so duh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SYDELL: The iPod has become a symbol of the fusion of music and technology, but it wasn't the first MP3 player on the market. There were others, says industrial designer Mark Dziersk.

Mr. MARK DZIERSK (Industrial Designer): There were a lot of MP3 players that were like overly-styled Ferraris with multiple buttons that nobody could figure how to do.

SYDELL: Five years ago today, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he dwelled on its beautiful design and simplicity.

Mr. JOBS: It's stainless steel. It's really, really durable. It's beautiful. Boom - that's iPod. I happen to have one right here in my pocket, as a matter of fact.

SYDELL: Sixty-seven million of the digital music players have been sold to date, according to Apple. Industry analysts say the iPod has cornered 75 percent of the MP3 market. Industrial designer Scott Summit - a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University - says with the iPod, Apple made the experience of downloading music to a portable player easy.

Professor SCOTT SUMMIT (Visiting Professor and Industrial Designer, Carnegie Mellon University): They have managed to take the technology out of the experience itself. The experience really has everything to do with the music, and anything beyond that falls to the side. You're really about getting your music, accessing your music and the culture that surrounds that.

SYDELL: It wasn't hard to learn to use the iPod. Connect it to your computer, buy some songs at the iTunes Store, or rip them from CDs you own. The wheel on the front of the digital screen made it easy to find songs. With the first iPod, users could hold 1,000 songs in their pocket and listen without recharging the battery for six or more hours, although there have been complains that the batteries don't last as long as advertised. Robert Brunner, an industrial designer who once worked at Apple, says there's a reason the company was able to succeed where others have failed: Steve Jobs' notorious perfectionism and his emphasis on the consumer experience.

Mr. ROBERT BRUNNER (Industrial Designer): If you can't open a box up and take it out, and look at a few things on the how to get started card and be up and running, I feel like somebody hasn't done their job. And that's why I think Apple has always been really great.

SYDELL: Apple has also done a remarkable marketing job, says Brunner, with hip, colorful iPod commercials where the iconic white ear buds hang down from the heads of dancing figures. Even prominent pop musicians like Bob Dylan have performed in ads.

(Soundbite of song, "Someday Baby")

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Musician): (Singing) You can take your clothes, put them in a sack. You're going down the road...

SYDELL: But what goes up can indeed go down. The iPod has its vulnerabilities. Since it created the iPod five years ago, Apple has just streamlined the original design and come out with variations on the theme - video capabilities, the Nano, the Shuffle. Industrial designer Mark Dziersk says sometimes success can stifle creativity, even at an innovative company like Apple.

Mr. DZIERSK: They're the granddaddy out there right now. They're going to have some trouble staying fresh with that unless they take the same kind of risks that they did before.

SYDELL: Dziersk and others say Apple will also have to see if the design lends itself to new technologies. Microsoft will be coming out with a competing player in November that will allow users to exchange songs wirelessly. While competing companies are looking for a design that will be the next hit, pictures of the most touted competition - the anticipated Microsoft Zune - show it looks an awful a lot like the iPod.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

INSKEEP: And if you are one of those who just can't figure up the darn iPod, we've got user tips at npr.org.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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User Tips: How to Reshuffle Your iPod

Your iPod can play videos from YouTube, backup your operating system and store Wikipedia entries -- if you know how to use it. Apple Computer hide caption

toggle caption
Apple Computer

Happy Birthday, dear iPod.

Happy Birthday to you.

I wish I could turn you off.

And turn you into a video game player, too.

There's so much the iPod can do, if you know what buttons to press. And there's so much more it will be able to do in a few short years. We asked three experts to share their guidance and their predictions.

iDon't Know How to Do Basic Tasks

1. How to Reset the iPod

You're in the middle of that killer Killers playlist and your iPod crashes. Don't fret. Chris Breen, author of The iTunes and iPod Pocket Guide, advises pressing the center click button and the menu button at the same time. After six seconds, your iPod should reboot.

2. How to Turn It Off

Turning it off isn't obvious, says Macs for Dummies author Edward Baig. Press the Play/Pause button for two seconds and the device will shut down.

3. Retrieving Music after a Crash

If your hard drive crashes, your music has not escaped into the ether: It's still on your iPod. But getting it off your iPod and back onto your computer can be tricky, because the iPod folder on your computer will appear empty.

Breen recommends the following:

If you use Windows, you should enable the option to view invisible folders and items. Then, open the iPod drive on your computer (as you would locate a DVD drive or external drive) and find a folder called: Ipod Control. There should be a music folder in Ipod Control. Drag it to your desktop. Voila! Your music is in the folder and now stored on your computer.

If you use a Mac, you'll need to install a program called TinkerTool to show invisible folders and items. You can then use Finder to located the folder called Ipod Control. Drag the music folder to your desktop, and your music should reappear.

4. Use Shuffle on a Non-Shuffle iPod

Every iPod has shuffle technology. Breen says to go into the Settings menu, and click on Shuffle. You can choose whether to enable shuffle, and then choose whether you want to randomize your music by songs or albums. If you shuffle by albums, your iPod will play a full album, and then switch to a new album. Of course, if you own a shuffle, your music is randomized -- but there's no display screen to view what's currently playing.

5. Make Sure It's Never too Loud

Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief of ilounge.com, says you can limit the maximum volume to prevent possible hearing loss. Go into Settings and click on Volume Limit to limit the volume for all audio. You can also specify slow, medium, or fast speeds under Settings for playback of audio books.

iWant to Do More

These tips depend on your iPod model. At this Apple Web site, you'll be able to determine which iPod you have and whether these how-tos will work for you.

Warning: Do not try advanced how-tos unless unless you're completely proficient with your iPod.

1. Read Wikipedia On-the-Go

Software engineer Matt Swann wanted to download Wikipedia entries onto his iPod hard drive, but no program existed. So he wrote a Perl script called Wikipod, which traverses all links from a Wikipedia entry and downloads the contents onto an iPod hard drive. The iPod can store up to 1,000 entries, for easy encyclopedic knowledge on-the-go.

2. Give your iPod a Semi-Extreme Makeover

Jeremy Horwitz says you can change the graphics and fonts. You can also change the icons that appear on the screen. A tutorial is located online from Engadget.

3. Change the Operating System

Horwitz recommends RockBox, an open-source operating system that allows you to play multiple audio formats -- like, say, OGG files (another type of sound file) -- on your iPod. But he doesn't recommend downloading it unless you're a proficient iPod user.

4. Use Your iPod to Watch YouTube

iTube is a program that allows you to convert files from YouTube into iTunes. The videos can then be uploaded to your iPod.

5. Use Your iPod to Play Video Games

Though fifth generation iPods are equipped with games, earlier models do not have downloadable games. The Web site ipodarcade.com has a series of freebies that you can download onto your iPod.

iSee the Future:

All three experts see iPods with better battery power and larger hard drives.

Horwitz predicts a touch screen and an on-screen click wheel.

Baig would like to see a subscription model in addition to the current $.99 model on iTunes, so that users can download as much music as they'd like while paying a flat fee.

Picking up on "all sorts of rumors," he also expects Apple will eventually announce a combo phone/iPod device.

And Breen would like wider screens on iPod models. "I want to be able to flip the iPod on its side," he says.

He also sees Apple going wireless. "In five years," he predicts, "media will be floating in the ether, much like satellite radio today. You could walk around, hear a song you like, pause your iPod like a TiVo, and buy [the song] with a button. It will come to your device."