Why Steve Jobs drowned the first iPod prototype


The first iPod. Steve Jobs drowned this. Photo: Grant Hutchison / Flickr (CC)
The first iPod. Steve Jobs drowned this to make a point. Photo: Grant Hutchison/Flickr CC

Every once in a while an anecdote comes along that so perfectly describes the late Steve Jobs’ vision, that it’s a perfect metaphor for Apple as a whole. This might be my favorite of those anecdotes.

Originally posted on Quora by ex-Apple employee Amit Chaudhary, here’s a story about how Jobs got his engineers to slim down the original iPod:

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”

Anyone tempted to drop their iPhone in a tank of water to see if Jobs’ maxim against wasted space still applies?

Source: Quora

  • acslater017

    I find it hard to believe that Apple keeps aquariums…this story seems apocryphal.

    • Aannddyy

      And the word of the day is Apocryphal

      • acslater017

        Sorry, went to Catholic school.

  • James H. Ward III

    I seem to remember in the Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson there was a brief description of the Apple design studio. There may have been a mentioning about a large Aquarium, along with a high-end stereo system. Those kind of creature comforts are good when you work long hours.

  • That’s awesome. I love how Steve proves a point. Of course, he is usually right. No wasted space in my iPhone 6 I bet.

    • lee scott

      Well, you could test it… :)

    • redheeler

      I recall someone on YouTube submerging their iPhone 6 in water and plenty of air bubbles came out. Still lots of wasted space.

    • tonyadams66

      iPhone 6 does have lot of wasted space, Someone on Youtube did this and the bubbles came out, Still looks like there is lot of space to fill maybe adding larger battery capacity might solve.

  • Windlasher

    I liked that guy.

  • Ra LaMothe

    Absolutely hilarious! I have the greatest admiration for that guy, but I would never have worked for him. I would have probably been institutionalized from the countless mental breakdowns he’d have caused me. LOL

    • Windlasher

      Yes you would have and so would I. The best people I have worked for are the people who pushed me to my limits and I like to think I did quite well because of them not in spite of them.

  • site7000

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

  • Doubtful: I recall this exact same parable said of a Sony executive (maybe Akio Morita?) and an early Walkman in the 80’s.

  • Oxymoron

    Si non e vero e ben trovato…

  • Jordan Baker

    omg this is absolute gold!! Even after he’s gone, the great Steve Jobs in still teaching us important lessons in design and management. #makeitsmaller

  • Guest


  • LB

    We had clear Color Classic’s in the studio, as well as a great sound system, but no aquariums.

  • Mohammad Ridwan

    And speaking of too big… iWatch!

  • James Maxx

    You still need some empty space for the internals to dissipate heat. You can’t stack chips and wires directly next / on top of each other.