When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPod in October of 2001, the device was greeted with a rather tepid response. Indeed, a number of fan reactions taken from a 2001 MacRumors message board have taken on a life of their own.
As an example, there's this:
hey - heres an idea Apple - rather than enter the world of gimmicks and toys, why dont you spend a little more time sorting out your pathetically expensive and crap server line up? or are you really aiming to become a glorified consumer gimmicks firm?
And then there's this gem:
I still can't believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It's so wrong! It's so stupid!
Of course, the iPod would go onto become immensely successful and an iconic device in two separate spheres: tech and music. In addition to revolutionizing the music industry, it also lined Apple's bank account with more money than the company had ever generated before.
Looking back at how incredible a product the iPod would go on to become, it's easy, and I might add fun, to look back and poke fun at how shortsighted some of the first reactions were to Apple's iPod announcement.
Even more interesting, though, is to look back at the rare folks who were smart enough to see the full potential of the iPod and the wisdom behind Apple's decision to launch it.
I recently stumbled upon such an example in the form of a November 2, 2001, article from former CNET editor Eliot Van Buskirk.
While some early iPod reviews were quick to bemoan the device's price or the fact that Apple was releasing an MP3 player in the first place, Van Buskirk was impressively able to see the tides shifting before his eyes.
In an article aptly titled "How the iPod will change computing," Van Buskirk writes:
Some of what's revolutionary about the iPod is obvious: lightning-quick FireWire file transfers, small size, and a brilliant design, not to mention its 5GB storage capacity. But a few things make me wonder if the iPod is not the harbinger of a new type of device, unrelated to its function as an MP3 player. The following seemingly random iPod qualities and industry facts lead me to predict that this player is a sign of things to come: The iPod can hold files of any type. It shows up on your desktop as another drive, so you can use it as a portable hard drive.
That's an impressively prescient take on the iPod written just seven days after its existence became known to the world.
Van Buskirk continues:
If you add all of these disparate facts together and look at the whole picture, you'll see where I'm going with this. The iPod (and the Terapin Mine, for that matter) is more than an MP3 player; it's a prototype of the data wallets that we'll all carry around within the decade. These devices will sync info between multiple machines and allow for music and video collections to be carried around everywhere. They won't have a complicated interface, but they will include a variety of ports for connection to keyboards, Webcams, monitors, networks, cell phones, PDAs, stereos, headphones, video goggles, GPS modules -- whatever peripheral you can think of.
While smartphones today don't come with a variety of ports, they do connect wirelessly to just about anything you can think of; thermostats, cell networks, cars, security cameras, keyboards and baby monitors, just to name a few.
Van Buskirk concludes:
If a more secure identification technology were added, the device could even act as some sort of secure digital ID for activities such as boarding planes or filling prescriptions.
Touch ID, anyone?
We live today in a world where tech writers all too often lack enthusiasm for and insight into the products they supposedly love covering. These days, tech critics are quick to dismiss new products and technologies by blindly focusing on what's missing instead of exploring what new opportunities may have just been created.
Van Buskirk, to his great credit, saw that the grand potential of the iPod was far greater than its function as a standalone MP3 player.
So bravo to you, Mr. Van Buskirk.
As for what Van Buskirk has been up to since, he would later go on to write for Wired before leaving to found Evolver.fm, a site covering music apps.