Perhaps the best thing was its intuitive interface with Apple’s iTunes music store, which allowed users to easily transfer content from PC to player. Its sci-fi aspects were underscored by its name, inspired by the one-man circular space pods used for repairs on the mothership in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The “i” in iPod was borrowed from Apple’s iMac (which first appeared in 1998) and was meant to represent “the internet”, although on several occasions Jobs also claimed that he meant to individual, to instruct, to inform and to inspire.
Arguably most of Jobs’ genius was persuading record companies to allow Apple to unbundle tracks from albums and sell them at the affordable price of 99 cents each. Combined with the sexy marketing of the iPod brand (all those cool silhouettes with pristine white headphones), it made legal downloading of tracks an attractive option once again, inspiring a real revolution in listening habits. when the “shuffle” function was unveiled in 2005.
We’re all mixing things up now, of course, so it can be hard to remember what a radical innovation this really was. Indeed, instead of listening to the albums in a pre-established order, he ceded power to the device, creating all sorts of random and thrilling juxtapositions. One moment you could be listening to Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones and the next, by magical synchronicity, you were confronted with Randy Newman playing God’s Song (OK, maybe it’s just me). And as storage increased (from 5 GB in 2001 to 16, 32, 64 and a super 256 GB on the 7th generation iPod Touch) while models got smaller (Classic, Mini, Nano , Shuffle), with ever-increasing battery power, we could pack more. I once flew from London to Los Angeles with my iPod shuffled the whole way – and I never heard the same song twice.
The idea of having a personal soundtrack for our own lives began to take hold, and with it came the creation (and sharing) of playlists. No magazine (or music website) would be complete without a celebrity iPod playlist, a kind of pen portrait as a song list. It even became a political tool during the 2008 contest between President George W. Bush and candidate Barack Obama.