Pre-launch iPod prototype revealed with oversized plastic enclosure

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Images of an early iPod have been shared by developer Panic, with the device shown as a simple and oversized enclosure with a clickwheel and buttons, one that may have been produced two months before the iPod's initial introduction.

[via Panic]
[via Panic]

October 23 marks the 20th anniversary of the iPod's unveiling by former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. To mark the milestone, app developer Panic has published photographs of a prototype iPod to its company blog.

It is unclear how the prototype got into Panic's possession, but it is assured to be a prototype from the company itself. A later teardown reveals a number of elements where Apple's name and other identifying marks are present, such as an "SPG Development" sticker, indicating it to be a genuine item.

The enclosure is multiple times larger than the original iPod, and certainly doesn't have the same form, consisting of a basic plastic electronics enclosure with various holes and cut-out sections. To the front is a small display in one corner, a column of button for "Up," "Down," "Left," and "Right" commands, and a wheel with divots.

[via Panic]
[via Panic]

To the side are cut-outs exposing an interface known as a "JTAG," said to assist with on-device debugging. Other ports for audio and FireWire are also present.

Opened up, the enclosure is shown to be very empty, with included components taking up very little space inside, and with wires held in place with tape. A sticker on one component includes the date September 3, 2001, which indicates it was produced less than two months before it was unveiled.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 9
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,941member
    Today is my birthday. I remember this day. I was sitting in my computer science class surrounded by Windows PCs and Apple (a computer company) unveiled a portal music player. I'll admit that I was taken back thinking "what is this thing?". But look where that one day 20 years ago took the company! Shows they truly had a long-term vision for changing the world. It wasn't about that one product, it was about the vision.
  • Reply 2 of 9
    The JTAG was probably used as a port to program any FPGAs that may have been used in the design.
  • Reply 3 of 9
    y2any2an Posts: 135member
    Really, AI. If you’re reporting on tech, you ought to know what JTAG is. 
  • Reply 4 of 9
    doggonedoggone Posts: 326member
    Imagine the battery life the iPod could have had if they had kept with that form factor! :open_mouth: 

    It's a good way to get testing done without revealing how the final unit would look like.

    When Apple came out with iTunes, I remember thinking wouldn't it be great if a you could put a hard drive in a music player.  Then a year later Apple comes out with the iPod.  I bought the 3rd gen when the size increased to hold my library and the price came down enough for me to 
  • Reply 5 of 9
    Remembering how secretive Apple used to be, even more so than today, this doesn’t surprise me. This was clearly so the software developers wouldn’t know what the hardware looked like. 
  • Reply 6 of 9
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,547member
    This reminds me of how much 3D printing has seriously improved the entire prototyping and mock-up process.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    emig647emig647 Posts: 2,448member
    I got to see this about 12 years ago at Panic's office. I never said anything Cabel!
  • Reply 8 of 9
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    iPhone was similar. The software people didn’t know what the hardware looked like.

    Remember, back then iPhones and knockoffs didn’t exist and it was funny seeing fans prototype ideas. One phone looked like an original iMac.

    Here’s a cool concept.

    Nowadays we expect new phones from Apple or knockoff manufacturers like Samsung or Google, to look like iPhones.
    edited October 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 9
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,081member
    scdundas said:
    Remembering how secretive Apple used to be, even more so than today, this doesn’t surprise me. This was clearly so the software developers wouldn’t know what the hardware looked like. 

    Or more likely there wasn't enough fully baked hardware available at this stage.
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