20 years ago, Apple revolutionized the world of MP3 players with the iPod

Apple iPod

We celebrated a special anniversary yesterday. The iPod, one of Apple’s greatest successes, was presented by Steve Jobs on October 23, 2001, to an incredulous crowd. At the time, putting a thousand songs in a single device was science fiction.

For the occasion, an engineer and a creative who worked on the project shared their memories with our colleagues from 20 minutes.

Whether you’re a fan or a detractor of the Apple brand, you have to admit that Apple’s product presentations have always looked like religious ceremonies. As a preacher, Steve Jobs, eternally adorned with his blue jeans and his turtleneck, drew in 2001 the contours of the future of music: “ This extraordinary little device carries 1,000 songs. And it fits in my pocket ».

The range of audiophile DAPs at the time struggled to convince technology enthusiasts, who had to make do with 15 MB flashcards that could only contain about twenty songs, with questionable audio quality. Even the Mini Disc, a Sony project, did not achieve the expected commercial success, as it was too expensive for the general public.

It was Jon Rubenstein, tenor of Apple, who then visited the Toshiba factories and came across a miniature hard drive of more than 5 GB. in the offices of Apple at the beginning of the millennium. With ten million dollars invested, Michael Dhuey, a mechanical engineer, finds himself at the head of the project. He remembers particular working conditions:

“We were in a secret building away from the main campus. We worked 10 hours a day, often on Saturdays and Sundays. We had food delivered. For security reasons, the cleaning staff had limited access. The trash cans piled up so much that we had rats in the building. »

A one-year project, 400 million copies sold

Toshiba’s miniature hard drive is a good base, but it has too little battery life. To overcome this problem, simply “push” the song to a DRAM chip to put it on RAM. This process does not drain the battery, and the first iPod prototype gets away with 10 hours of battery life. Dhuey also explains that he had to push the sound to the maximum because ” Steve Jobs suffered from a mild hearing problem “.

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The name given to this walkman is the subject of tasty anecdotes. Steve Jobs listens to the proposals and classifies them into three categories: “worst name I’ve heard in my life”, “not terrible” and “not bad”. Finally, the team agrees on “iPod”, a subtle reference to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. After a few weeks of reflection, the initially recalcitrant boss ends up approving.

Launched at the end of 2001, the product initially sold 3 million copies – a relative failure for the brand. The iPod is beautiful and innovative, but it only works with Mac computers. The team fixes this problem and allows PC users to put music on the player from their machine. From then on, the iPod obtained the disproportionate success that we know of, with 400 million units sold.

Source : 20 minutes

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