An illustrated history of the iPod and its massive impact

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Steve Jobs on the cover of NewsWeek
Steve Jobs and the iPod make the cover of NewsWeek.
Photo: NewsWeek

Editor’s note: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the iPod, the humble digital music player that reshaped Apple. To mark the occasion, Cult of Mac updated its illustrated history of the iPod — put together to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary, and originally published on Oct. 22, 2011.

An Illustrated History of the iPod

The iPod grew out of Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. Life was going digital. People were plugging all kinds of devices into their computers: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players.

The computer was the central device, the “digital hub,” that could be used to edit photos and movies or manage a large music library. Jobs tasked Apple’s programmers with making software for editing photos, movies and managing digital music. While they were doing this, they discovered that all the early MP3 players were horrible. Jobs asked his top hardware guy, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could do better.

Today in Apple history: ‘Here’s to the crazy ones’ who ‘think different’

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The Apple
Do you remember when Apple told you to think different?
Photo: Apple

September 28: Today in Apple history: Apple 'think different' television commercial says 'here's to the crazy ones' September 28, 1997: Apple debuts its iconic “Think Different” television commercial, aligning the troubled computer company with some of history’s most celebrated freethinking rebels.

The most famous tagline in Apple history, “Think different” doesn’t just articulate how Cupertino differs from its competitors. It also highlights how Apple, under the leadership of Steve Jobs, will forge a future far different from its floundering, money-losing days of the early 1990s.

Today in Apple history: Apple fan Jerry Seinfeld joins the dark side

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Microsoft ad
"What's the deal with bad advertising?"
Photo: Microsoft

August 21: Today in Apple history: Jerry Seinfeld appears in failed Microsoft ads August 21, 2008: Microsoft recruits comedian Jerry Seinfeld for a series of ads. It’s a naked attempt to shake the company’s reputation as a stodgy oldster (as opposed to Apple’s trendsetting hipster image).

Microsoft pays Seinfeld a reported $10 million for the ads. However, thanks to the Mac’s appearance in virtually every episode of Seinfeld over the years, the comedian remains the world’s most famous Apple fanboy.

Today in Apple history: ‘Misunderstood’ iPhone ad wins Emmy

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The heartwarming
"Misunderstood" earns Apple its second Emmy.
Photo: Apple

Aug 18: Today in Apple history: Apple's Christmas-themed 'Misunderstood' iPhone ad wins Emmy August 18, 2014: A Christmas-themed iPhone ad lands Apple an Emmy for “Most Outstanding Commercial of the Year.”

The prize-winning spot is Apple’s “Misunderstood” iPhone 5s ad. It depicts a silent teenager who won’t spend time with his family at Christmas because he’s too busy with his iPhone. At the end of the ad, he reveals that he’s not actually being a misanthrope. He used his iPhone and iMovie to shoot and edit a heartwarming family montage!

Today in Apple history: It’s time to ‘Think different’

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Think-Different
And just like that, a catchy slogan turns into an earworm.
Image: Apple

August 8: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs introduces new Apple new slogan, Think different August 8, 1997: At Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs introduces the world to Apple’s new slogan, “Think different.” The catchy marketing reassures fans that Apple is exiting its mid-1990s dark age and once again making products customers will love.

It’s the beginning of Apple’s most iconic advertising campaign since the original “1984” Macintosh ad.

Today in Apple history: Martin Scorsese ad makes Siri look like a superstar

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Scorsese Siri
"Hey Siri, am I here to f***ing amuse you?"
Photo: Apple

July 23: Today in Apple history: Martin Scorsese Apple ad makes Siri look like a superstar July 23, 2012: Looking for the perfect spokesman for its new virtual assistant Siri, Apple turns to Martin Scorsese, the legendary filmmaker behind some of Hollywood’s most violent gangster movies.

The new television commercial shows the director using Siri voice commands to juggle his busy schedule. One in a string of celebrity-studded Siri ads, it ranks among the best.

Today in Apple history: Paul McCartney is unlikely star of iTunes ad

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An vividly animated Apple ad showcases Paul McCartney's
An vividly animated Apple ad showcases Paul McCartney's "Dance Tonight."
Photo: Apple

June 14: Today in Apple history: Paul McCartney iTunes ad features Dance Tonight June 14, 2007: Paul McCartney sings his new song “Dance Tonight” in an iPod + iTunes ad, the latest in a series of spots starring music industry legends.

The new animated ad signifies a thawing of the icy relationship between Apple and McCartney, whose original band The Beatles has been locked in a legal battle with Cupertino for decades.

Today in Apple history: Brilliant ad campaign turns switcher into unlikely star

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Apple's
Apple's "Switch" ad makes Ellen Feiss internet famous.
Photo: Apple

June 9: Today in Apple history: Ellen Feiss becomes an unlikely star thanks to Apple's Switch ad campaign June 9, 2002: Apple launches its “Switch” advertising campaign, featuring real people talking about their reasons for switching from PCs to Macs. Apple’s biggest marketing effort since the “Think Different” ad campaign a few years earlier, it turns 15-year-old high school student Ellen Feiss into an unlikely star.

She becomes a viral sensation after viewers suggest she was stoned during filming of her sleepy-eyed “Switch” spot about a homework-devouring PC.

Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs says Apple is being run by ‘caretakers’

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1984
Steve Jobs thought ditching ad agency Chiat/Day proved that Apple had lost its creative mojo.
Photo: Apple and Chiat/Day

May 27: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs says Apple is being run by caretakers May 27, 1986: An exiled Steve Jobs takes a shot at Apple after the company ditches Chiat/Day, the ad agency that created the iconic “1984” Macintosh ad.

In a full-page ad published in The Wall Street Journal, Jobs says the move to competing ad agency BBDO shows that “caretakers” rather than “builders” now run Apple. From his perspective, it confirms that Apple has lost its revolutionary spirit.

Today in Apple history: Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ campaign comes to an end

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Mac vs. PC
This was one of the best ad campaigns in Apple history.
Photo: Apple

May 21: Today in Apple history: Apple's Get a Mac ad campaign comes to an end May 21, 2010: Apple quietly ends its long-running, award-winning “Get a Mac” marketing campaign.

Debuting in 2006, the ads starred actor Justin Long as the cool, youthful Mac. Comedian John Hodgman portrayed the stuffy, awkward PC. Alongside the “Think Different” and the iPod “Silhouette” campaigns, “Get a Mac” will become one of the most fondly remembered extended ad campaigns in Apple history.