A Prototype Original iPod

Cabel Sasser, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first iPod:

Now, there are a lot of mysteries in the Panic Archives (it’s a closet) but by far one of the most mysterious is what you’re seeing for the first time today: an original early iPod prototype.

We don’t know much about where it came from. But we’ve been waiting 20 years to share it with you.

It doesn’t look anything like an actual iPod, but that’s how prototypes work. But the date on this unit was remarkably late in development:

Clearly, this revision of the prototype was very close to the internals of the finished iPod. In fact, the date there — September 3rd, 2001 — tells us this one was made barely two months before it was introduced.

I’ve long wondered whether Apple might have intended to introduce the iPod a few weeks earlier than they actually did, but, well, September 11 happened. I remember that original iPod introduction as much for the iPod itself as for it feeling like a welcome early step in the world returning to normalcy.

Tony Fadell:

This is a P68/Dulcimer iPod prototype we (very quickly) made before the true form factor design was ready. Didn’t want it look like an iPod for confidentiality - the buttons placement, the size - it was mostly air inside - and the wheel worked (poorly).

John Whitley:

@panic @cabel HA! GOT YOU! I have seen exactly that before. I was one of the PortalPlayer firmware devs who went onsite @ the Apple skunkworks site during iPod main development, and again to make sure the GM release shipped on time.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021