The first iPod was introduced by Apple in 2001 with a storage capacity of five gigabytes, which was very impressive for the time. The newer iPods can not only play music and videos, but also let users view photo slideshows and play games. A sleek yet robust electronic device, the iPod enjoys immense popularity even a decade after its first release, due to its quality and functionality. Designers at Apple were able to develop and successfully market a product that delivered superior performance.
Today, there are several versions of the iPod, such as the iPod Classic, the iPod Nano, the iPod Touch, and the iPod Shuffle, each with its own benefits, and tailored to cater to a specific need. Although essentially an mp3 player, the iPod can be considered a specialized digital computer, that supports popular multimedia file formats. Depending on the version, an iPod may contain a hard drive in which the user's multimedia content is stored, a battery pack, a touch-screen for both input and output, an LCD (liquid crystal display) display, and a circuit board with a microprocessor, the video and audio chips, and RAM (random access memory). All the internal components are attached to, and are run by, the motherboard. The secret to an iPod's smooth performance is the flawlessly synchronized actions of each of its components. Apple sources its raw materials from some of the world's most trusted suppliers, including Samsung, SigmaTel, Toshiba, and Cirrus Logic.
The firmware, a proprietary software developed specifically for a piece of hardware, controls the basic parts on the device's circuit board. After the firmware is installed onto the iPod, a tailor-made version of Apple's Mac OS X is installed. This software is responsible for the all-too-familiar, distinctly "Apple" look of the iPod interface, and its menus and functions. The more recent iPods have support for "apps," which are third-party generated software that an iPod user can load onto their device for a more customized iPod experience.
iPods can play many audio file formats such as MP3, AAC/M4A, WAV, and AIFF. Fifth and sixth generation iPod classics and third generation iPod nanos can play MPEG-4 as well as QuickTime video formats. In the earlier years of the iPod, the device was only compatible with Mac OS, but later became compatible with Microsoft Windows when the second generation was launched. The iPod does not yet have support for WMA (Windows Media Audio), and a converter for iTunes is included in the Windows version.