Prototype iPod is something to behold

Originally published at: Prototype iPod is something to behold | Boing Boing


It has always been my deepest dream to smoothly unzip a backpack on a flight, theatrically pull out this incredible beast, plug in some headphones, and use it as my actual “portable” music player. Imagine the looks

You’d likely get tackled and zip-tied before anyone realized it was a music player.


Interesting, although it takes them a while to show how big it really is.


There’s much debate online about the extent to which this is a functional matter, to keep teams focused on their part, or one tied to Apple’s legendarily tight security, to stop teams knowing about others’ parts.

Porque no los dos?

Another reason I can think of to make such a big chunky enclosure for the hardware, is that it would actually make it easier for an engineer to use while working on it, instead of fiddling with a small thing kicking around on their desk.


This is perfectly normal in the world of product engineering. The final product is compacted to ridiculously small dimensions after the design of the circuits and software is nearly complete. It would be insane to do development on the final product.


This prototype case appears to have had late development cycle guts installed in it. We can presume that the case was designed for some huge circuit boards that held all the big versions of the components, as used in the first couple of electronic design iterations.
It would be really cool to find those early circuit boards and populate this case with them. But they were likely scrapped as soon as they were replaced.


It has always been my deepest dream to smoothly unzip a backpack on a flight, theatrically pull out this incredible beast, plug in some headphones, and use it as my actual “portable” music player. Imagine the looks



Of course it would just be pre-MIDI bleeps, but still…


Then again, why fly when you can jack right into the cyberplane with this cyberdeck?


You could use an 8-bit sound card on these machines, I remember there was an optional docking station that housed ISA slots.

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That makes more sense to me. The case looks injection molded and custom for the iPod’s functionality (right screen, wheel and buttons). That strikes me as needlessly expensive if they only used it a few times.

I thought another reason to keep it this big might be to make it harder to steal?

Pffft. I had “prototypes” on my desk at Apple. They were huge breadboards for what eventually became phones. On the other hand I also had prototypes for things that were basically finished products that never made it to market (not a new product category, but a variant of an existing product). A friend had an iPhone 5c (or whatever the bright plastic one was), that he (and dozens of others) were authorized to take out of the building and use in public (although only inside of some ugly bulky “stealth cases” that covered every bit of the bright plastic).

So I doubt that we will be able to settle through debate why that particular iPod was still so far from the final design.

I’ll make things slightly worse though by adding my own theory. Sometimes older prototypes get used for “less important” things. So at two months before launch there were likely prototypes that were extremely close to the final design. Those would have been used by the ID department as Steve Jobs meeting props, and by the people working on making sure the RF leakage was in the range the FCC would consider acceptable (i.e. the people going from “working product” to “legal to sell in the USA product”). People working on software support can use the prototypes made a month or two back when the important stuff was “does the hardware even work?”…

…and the “the scroll wheel even kind of worked most of the time” even plays into that prototype having been once used by the hardware design folks. Although it is also plausible that the wheel worked in some of the prototypes made at the same time. Prototypes have individual variations that can be significant. Even “production ramp verification” units can have significant variation (which is why at some point all our PVT units were taken away and replaced with production units, it doesn’t take many bugs reports from PVT units that turn out not to exist on production units to make it more cost effective to scrap 100s or even 1000s of PVT devices and replace them with real devices).


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