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Introduction > What Is an iPod?

What Is an iPod?

An iPod is many things to many people, but most people think of it as a pocket-size music player that holds 1,000 songs, 10,000 songs, or more, depending on the model.

Like the original Sony Walkman, which revolutionized the personal listening experience when it was introduced in 1979, Apple's announcement of the original 5-gigabyte iPod in the fall of 2001 caught the music world's ear. "With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again," intoned Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. But even out of the Hyperbolic Chamber, the iPod was different enough to get attention. People noticed it, and more importantly, bought it. By the end of 2003, Apple had sold over two million of them. The iPod was the single bestselling music player on the market, the dominant player; for the first time in its history, Apple got to feel like Microsoft.

And no wonder. The iPod was smaller, lighter, and better-looking than most of its rivals—and much, much easier to use. Five buttons and a scroll wheel could quickly take you from ABBA to ZZ Top, and every song in between.

Gleaming in a white and chrome case slightly larger than deck of cards, the original iPod could hold at least 1,000 average-length pop songs (or six typical Grateful Dead live jams), and play them continuously for ten hours on a fully charged battery. The black-and-white LCD screen offered the song information in type large enough to actually read, and a bright backlight allowed for changing playlists in the dark. And with its superfast FireWire connection, the iPod could slurp down an entire CD's worth of music from computer to player in under 15 seconds.

Beyond the Music

Inside the iPod spins a hard drive, rather than the memory chip found in most music players. That hard drive, of course, is the secret to its massive capacity—but it's also the secret to a whole raft of surprising, little-known features like these:

  • iPod as hard drive. You can hook up an iPod to your Mac or Windows machine, where it shows up as a disk. You can use it to copy, back up, or transfer gigantic files from place to place—at immense rates of transfer speed, thanks to its FireWire or USB 2.0 connection.

  • iPod as eBook. The iPod makes a handy, pocket-sized electronic book reader, capable of displaying and scrolling through recipes, driving directions, book chapters, and even Web pages.

  • iPod as PalmPilot. Amazingly, the iPod serves as a superb, easy-to-understand personal organizer. It can suck in the calendar, address book, to-do list, and notes from your Mac or PC, and then display them at the touch of a button.

  • iPod as GameBoy. All right, not a GameBoy, exactly. But there are three video-style games and a memory-tugging audio quiz built into the modern iPod—perfect time-killers for medical waiting rooms, long bus rides, and lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

You know how Macintosh computers inspire such emotional attachment from their fans? The iPod inspires similar devotion: iPod Web sites, iPod shareware add-ons, an iPod accessory industry—in short, the invasion of the iPod People.

If you're reading this book, you're probably a Podling, too—or about to become one. Welcome to the club.

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