A brief history of the iPod: 5 years old today

MP3 players

Today is the iPod’s fifth birthday, and in that time it has incarnated in at least 30 formats, plus special editions and colour variations.

Here we take a brief journey through iPod history, since October 2001 when the first iPod arrived on the scene. How many do you recognise? (and how many have I accidentally missed out…)

ipod_first_generation.jpgiPod with Scroll Wheel (First Generation)

  • The one that started the mobile white-ear-bud-wearing digital music craze, launched October 2001.
  • White model, monochrome screen, 5 or 10 GB hard drive, scroll wheel
  • Scroll wheel moves – four function buttons located around the edge of wheel.

ipod_dock_connector_third_generation.jpgiPod with Touch Wheel (Second Generation)

  • First launched July 2002.
  • White model, 10 or 20 GB hard drive, monochrome screen, touch wheel
  • Wheel doesn’t move – four function buttons located above the wheel

iPod with Dock Connector (Third Generation)

  • First launched April 2003
  • White body, 10, 15 or 30 GB hard drive models, monochrome screen
  • Introduces the dock connector – previous models had a Firewire port.
  • 20 and 40 GB models introduced in September 2003

ipod_mini_first_generation.jpgiPod Mini

  • First introduced January 2004
  • Introduced the Click Wheel with four functions on the wheel itself
  • Body available in five colours: Silver, Gold, Pink, Blue and Green

ipod_mini_second_generation.jpgSecond Generation introduced February 2005

  • Originally available with 4 GB Hard Drive. Second Generation 6 GB.
  • Second generation models had text on wheel the same colour as the body.

ipod_click_wheel_fourth_generation.jpgiPod with Click Wheel (Fourth Generation)

  • First introduced July 2004
  • Available in 20 or 40 GB hard drve models
  • White body, monochrome display, click wheel

u2_special_edition_ipod_fourth_generation.jpgiPod ‘U2′ Special Edition

  • Special Edition of the iPod 20GB Click Wheel model
  • Black body, red wheel, engraved signatures of U2 band members on reverse panel, loaded with music from U2 album.
  • Updated version launched June 2005 with colour display.

ipod_color_fourth_generation.jpgiPod with Colour Display (iPod Photo)

  • First introduced October 2004.
  • Available in 40 and 60 GB hard drive models.
  • White body, colour display
  • Additional colour models released February 2005 (30 GB) and July 2005 (20 and 60 GB) hard drives.

ipod_shuffle.jpgiPod Shuffle (First Generation)

  • First introduced January 2005.
  • Available in 512 MB and 1 GB Flash memory models
  • No display. white body, LEDs

ipodnanoblack.jpgiPod Nano

  • First introduced September 2005
  • White or black body, avaiable in 1GB (released February 2006), 2GB and 4GB models
  • Click wheel, flash memory, USB only (no Firewire)

ipod_black_fifth_generation.jpgiPod Video (Fifth Generation)

  • Released October 2005.
  • Black or white body, widescreen colour display, 30 or 60 GB hard drive capacity.
  • USB only


iPod (Sixth Generation)

  • Released September 2006.
  • Improved display brightness
  • Thinner, larger capacity models
  • Music search function
  • Longer battery life
  • 30, 60 & 80GB versions


iPod nano (Second Generation)

  • Released September 2006.
  • Body available in six colours
  • Remodelled body
  • Longer battery life
  • 2, 4 & 8GB

ipod-shuffle-second-generation.jpgiPod shuffle (Second Generation)

  • Released October 2006.
  • Smaller body
  • Aluminium casing
  • 1GB memory

It’s interesting to see how the design has evolved over time, particularly the changing navigation wheels, from scroll wheel to touch wheel to click wheel, plus new smaller models and those without displays.

There have also been a plethora of Apple and third-party accessories to enhance your iPod experience, many of which we’ve covered here at Tech Digest.

We wait to see what wonders Apple comes up with in the next five years, and who (if anyone) will steal Apple’s crown as the king of the MP3 player.

Andy Merrett
For latest tech stories go to TechDigest.tv


  • Amazing; still top of the heap after 6 years??

    My 80Gb is so superb. It’s the best product of any kind that I own. I use it every single day for:
    Music; 4k songs +
    Movies; 5 including Incredibles and Nemo,
    YouTube and other short movies by the dozen,
    Podcasts; on subjects diverse and strange such as photography, astronomy and phony mormon prophets,
    Photos; My last 5 shoots synced with iPhoto,
    AND my calendars and contacts and notes.

    Rock on.

  • The information about the second and third generations are incorrect. The second generation only different from the first with the touch wheel. The other buttons were located in the same place. The third generation did introduce the dock connector but also introduced the slicker rounded body and the four touch buttons located above the touch wheel.

  • I am looking for information the iPods manufacture. Could anyone direct me to a good internet site that about the design and manufacture of iPod. Thank you.

  • mr guest is a fassy hole who loves meat
    and im gonna find where you fuckers live knife you and knick youyr iPods, PUSSY’OLES

  • I HATE APPLE but i have to do a project on the crappy things for dt.
    mr guest rules all

  • i love my ipod nano so much!! and i love seeing hoe the ipods changed over time.. great job!

  • I have all of the generations!!!!!!


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