Ran­dom Ap­ple Me­mory

When MP3 got big, Ap­ple bought its now-fa­mous app, re­calls Adam Banks

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS -

iTunes: how it all be­gan.

In 1999, MP3 was sud­denly huge. The new au­dio file for­mat meant tiny dig­i­tal play­ers could store a cou­ple of al­bum’s worth of songs copied from a PC – a cool al­ter­na­tive to a per­sonal cas­sette or CD player. Ap­ple didn’t make portable de­vices, but Steve Jobs wanted the Mac to go MP3. He emailed in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ers Ca­bel Sasser and Steven Frank, who’d in­vited him to try their player app, Au­dion. But they were be­ing courted by on­line gi­ant AOL, and Sasser thought it “only fair” to de­lay.

Jobs didn’t wait. He bought the rights to an al­ready pop­u­lar MP3 pro­gram, Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP, and hired its de­vel­op­ers – in­clud­ing Jeff Rob­bin, who would stay to be­come VP of con­sumer ap­pli­ca­tions. SoundJam’s ap­plet win­dow had a mono brushed­metal in­ter­face, like Ap­ple’s Quick­Time Player 4, with play/pause, skip, and vol­ume con­trols; a playlist func­tion; and a vi­su­al­iza­tion of swirling pat­terns re­spond­ing to sound. Those were the fea­tures of iTunes 1.0, which was un­veiled in Jan­uary 2001 as an Ap­ple in­no­va­tion.

A ma­jor ad­di­tion was the abil­ity to record tracks to CD, in­spir­ing the slo­gan “Rip, Mix, Burn.” Since trans­fer­ring MP3s to CD, and vice versa, was tech­ni­cally an in­fringe­ment of copy­right, this would be end­lessly quoted in le­gal anal­y­sis.

Newly hired hard­ware ex­pert Tony Fadell, en­gi­neer Jon Ru­bin­stein, and de­signer Jonathan Ive were al­ready at work on the iPod, which ar­rived in Oc­to­ber. When, the fol­low­ing year, Jobs him­self signed off the record la­bel deals that cre­ated the iTunes Mu­sic Store, the stage was set for a rev­o­lu­tion in our con­sump­tion of mu­sic.

Back in the day, even iTunes came on a CD. Check out the app’s brushed-me­tal in­ter­face.

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