It’s hard to believe that the prototype for the original iPod is something that you can’t even fit into your pocket. Panic, a software development group for macOS and iOS, dredged up the prototype for the original iPod — something that Apple probably never wanted to see again — in honor of the iPod’s 20th anniversary (via 9to5Mac).
As funny as it would be if Apple was actually trying to make the iPod look like a failed attempt at a pocket-sized DVD player, that’s (sadly) not the case. A tweet from Tony Fadell, the inventor of the iPod, confirms that the prototype was designed to prevent the real iPod design from getting leaked ahead of its launch.
This is a P68/Dulcimer iPod prototype we (very quickly) made before the true form factor design was ready. Didn’t want it look like an iPod for confidentiality – the buttons placement, the size – it was mostly air inside – and the wheel worked (poorly) https://t.co/qeNMHMmVsc
— Tony Fadell (@tfadell) October 23, 2021
The yellow, brick-like device is dated September 3rd, 2001, almost two months before the iPod’s actual release date on October 23rd. The prototype is several times larger than the iPod we all know and love and has a scroll wheel in its top-left corner, along with a tiny screen in the top-right. Other clunky navigation buttons line the side of the device.
Apple’s mission to conceal its design is also the reason behind the massive amount of space on the inside of the device. The layout of its internals is closer to the size of the official iPod, but Apple just decided to give it a clunky get-up to hide its design secrets, both on the inside and out.
We’ve seen other Apple prototypes in the past, but nothing looks as silly as this. A second-generation iPod popped up on eBay in 2017, and the seller wanted nearly $100,000. Even the iPod Touch prototype looks close to the finished product. More recently, a prototype for the never-released VideoPad 2 popped up and is set to be auctioned off in November.
The original iPod prototype, however, is definitely one of a kind. It’s a testament to Apple’s dedication to keeping its design classified, which was especially important for the launch of its very first iPod.