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To all the iPods I’ve loved before

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

In the summer of 2001, a Hollywood screenwriter friend of mine got a call from his agent: “Get up to San Francisco now. There’s an interesting project available and you need to be there for the pitch”

“San Francisco? Can you narrow it down?”

There was a pause. “Report to One Infinite Loop in Cupertino. Apple headquarters.”

My friend and his writing partner were soon sitting in the lobby with confused looks on their faces — What are we doing here? — when a thin guy in jeans and a black turtleneck came by. “Come with me,” he said. It was Steve Jobs.

For the next 45 minutes, Jobs went into full presentation mode for this audience of two before dramatically reaching into his pocket and pulling out a white slab about the size of a deck of cards.

“Imagine,” he said, “one thousand songs in the palm of your hand.” He held out a prototype for the first generation iPod.

The gig involved writing a promotional video that would be sent to members of the press and the industry ahead of the product launch that fall. Naturally, my friend and his partner took the job with Steve micromanaging everything along the way. It wasn’t uncommon for the phone to ring at 11 p.m. to hear “It’s Steve. I’ve got some notes on the last draft. Ready?”

Unfortunately, the video was never made. The musicians originally contracted to appear had to bow out, timelines grew increasingly tight, and budgets had to go elsewhere. As a consolation, Apple paid the two writers with a pile of Mac PowerBooks. Literally a pile of laptops that took up a corner of the house for months.

My friend was under an NDA so he couldn’t talk about anything until after the iPod was released on Oct. 23, 2001, in the foggy, confusing months following the September 11 attacks. And even then, relatively few people were paying attention.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38150 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “To all the iPods I’ve loved before

  • You misspoke in the article saying the Nanos had no screen … the Shuffle had no screen, but the Nanos all did:

    The 6th gen 8 gb Nano ended up being my favourite iPod for how tiny it was, for running. Also had an FM radio in it. I was disappointed the 7th gen ones were quite a bit larger for playing video on, which I was never going to use an iPod for.

  • I don’t generally haunt Sotheby’s. It’s a bit too rich for my blood but I was doing some research for a friend who was handling her parent’s estate and came upon Karl Lagerfeld’s estate that had an auction coming up and just *died* inside. He had something like..

    one lot of 80 shuffles (you can tell the auction is listed wrong) -not working, no batteries – sold for 4032 euros
    one lot of 50 7th gen nanos – not working, no batteries – sold for 3780 euros
    two lot of 50 7th gen nanos – not working, no batteries – no sales price (bidding prices were to start at 3-5k euros)
    one lot of 80 shuffles (auction listed wrong) – not working, no batteries – sold for 4410 euros.

    At first glance, I wanted them for the batteries and then I realized there were no batteries and then saw the price and THEN I realized there could be MUSIC on these and then my heart just sank. I can’t imagine that many pieces of someone else’s *soul*. Now, sure, these might all be business related – on some you can see that there are times and dates and places and others you can see artists names but not enough to tell you anything meaningful.

    It’s like the old e-bay days when you could buy lots of people’s record collections for a few hundred bucks and it was a glimpse into a person’s character. Those days are long gone, by and large, the commercialism of e-bay and etsy and even thrift stores on said sites have ruined that.

    But ipods..I still have mine although I need batteries although I think I found a good lead. I’m not really quite ready to crack mine open and do it myself yet. That day will come but not quite yet.

    Owner of three shuffles, one Nano and one Mini
    and a plug for a great music app – not affiliated just a user – Swinsian is great for those who use a mac and still works with ipods *and* podcasts so don’t be sucker and pay for podcasts.


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