You might be surprised to learn that the Apple iPod actually wasn't the first portable device capable of playing songs downloaded as digital files from the Internet. But everyone has pretty much forgotten the Eiger Labs MPMan, which in 1998 was the first digital music player on the market [source: Van Buskirk]. That's because the early portable devices, which early adopters used to play MP3 files that they'd copied from CDs or downloaded from file-sharing services like Napster tended to be clunky gadgets that could only store a few megabytes of music. More importantly, they took a certain amount of techno-nerditude and Web savvy to utilize. They were more novelties than must-haves [source: Schlender].
The iPod, introduced in 2001, changed all that. It had a five-gigabyte hard drive capable of storing the equivalent of 100 CDs and a lithium-polymer battery that could play music for 10 hours straight. The ingenious scroll wheel enabled a user to scroll through songs and playlists with ease. None of these features were completely new, but Apple packaged them in one incredibly cool-looking device.
Better yet, Apple made it very simple to load digital music onto the iPod. All you had to do was install iTunes music management software on your Mac computer and you could transfer 1,000 songs in 10 minutes, and also sync your playlists. If you didn't know how to find digital music on the Web, you could buy it from the iTunes store. (That was great for Apple, too, which quickly became a dominant digital music retailer.) Later versions made it possible to use the iPod with a PC, making it even more accessible [source: Schlender].
The iPod quickly became as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Air Jordans, and today it remains the portable jukebox of choice for everybody from pre-teen skateboarders to U.S. presidents. But while the iPod is designed to be easy to use, true digital music newbies can still find it a little bewildering. But don't worry, we're here to give you the guidance you need -- and we'll teach you a few tricks that Apple won't.