As CDs overtook cassette tapes in both sound quality and popularity, Sony saw the need to update its popular Walkman line for a new generation.
In 1984, on the one year anniversary of the introduction of compact discs, Sony introduced their D-50 portable CD player, the first ever portable digital music player. The D-50 was actually my own first foray into portable music players, and it truly was a marvel. Just slightly larger than a CD case, the player offered all of the great audio quality that digital recordings had to offer.
Back in 1954, I.D.E.A. released the very first portable transistor radio. The Regency TR-1 radio measured 3” x 5” x 1.25” and featured an analog AM tuner. In a strange prediction of things to come (I’m talking to you iPod), the Regency came out in a variety of colors over the years, ranging from a simple bone white to pearlescent lavender and lime colors.
The TR-1 tuned stations by a simple gold dial and played through a low-fidelity monophonic speaker. It retailed for $49.95 back in the day, which would make it cost around $325 in today’s dollars.
Leave it to Apple to stand back, look at what other companies were doing wrong, and to vastly improve upon their mistakes. The original iPod, released in 2001 combined a 5GB hard drive with a rechargeable battery pack and a paradigm breaking user interface. Marketed by Steve Jobs as “1000 songs in your pocket,” the iPod didn’t necessarily do that much differently under the hood from other MP3 players, but it had a sleek design (by 2001 standards), a unique and simple navigational system, and the Apple brand name to back it all up.