As you read the countless odes to Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday at age 56, keep an image of the above first generation iPod in your mind, and contemplate what the music world was like before it and its companion, iTunes, arrived in 2001. For better or worse, this one combination changed the way we consumed music, exacerbated the demise of both the compact disc and the brick-and-mortar record store, revolutionized the music business, and massively disrupted the major labels' dominance in the marketplace.
Oh, and helped break Feist.
In a 2006 Newsweek interview, Jobs discussed the rationale for the iPod/iTunes match: "We had the hardware expertise, the industrial design expertise and the software expertise, including iTunes. One of the biggest insights we have was that we decided not to try to manage your music library on the iPod, but to manage it in iTunes. Other companies tried to do everything on the device itself and made it so complicated that it was useless."
You'll be reading a lot more about Jobs in the days, weeks, months, years and decades to come. But for now, a toast to the iPod and the man who both envisioned it and understood its importance. As he told Fortune magazine in 2003: “It will go down in history as a turning point for the music industry. This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it.” Indeed.
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: First generation iPod, from 2001. Credit: Apple