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20 Years Old iPod Prototype Unveiled

Oldest Apple iPod

It’s a piece of technology history that was unearthed just in time for the anniversary. The iPod was unveiled by Steve Jobs 20 years ago, and a few weeks earlier the Apple developers had tested the final technology in a prototype. It appears again now.

The bulkiest iPod in the world

For Apple, the iPod marks a turning point towards the company that ventures into new product categories and takes them by storm. Hardly any product represents this change like the small MP3 player with a scroll wheel, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary these days when it was introduced by Steve Jobs. On October 23, 2001, Apple’s forefather unveiled the first iPod with the phrase “it has space for a thousand songs and fits in every pocket”. Just in time for the special day, a very interesting piece of development history is now reappearing.

“There are many secrets in the Panic Archives (it’s a closet), but one of the most puzzling is what you see for the first time today: an original early iPod prototype,” said app and handheld developer Panic in a detailed blog post. This provides a unique insight into the way in which Apple had tested its cult product internally just a few weeks before the launch. Although later elements such as the display and scroll wheel can be seen, the housing is significantly larger and thicker than the later product.

Secret iPod

A look inside shows, however, that the prototype consists almost entirely of air, the built-in technology is very close to the production model. An explanation for this comes from the best place one could ask for.

Tony Fadell is considered to be one of the inventors of the iPod idea and, 20 years later, reveals the then well-kept secret on Twitter in a response to Panic: “This is a P68 / Dulcimer iPod prototype that we (very quickly) made before the real form factor design was done. Didn’t want it to look like an iPod for confidentiality reasons – the placement of the buttons, the size – there was mostly air inside – and the wheel worked (poorly) ”.