Apple’s iTunes

MP3 and other digital players used sound files, not records or tapes. In 2001 Apple introduced iTunes, a platform that sold digital songs online for just 99 cents apiece. iTunes—which licensed and paid royalty fees for the music it sold—made purchasing so easy that it helped eliminate illegal file sharing. Apple, pushed by cofounder Steve Jobs, then developed a user-friendly digital player, the iPod.

CD with iTunes software, 2001

Listening Anytime

Ever-smaller players with ever-larger capacities for tunes and later, podcasts, made it possible to listen anytime—even all day. As many workplaces transformed into cubicle farms or as workers moved to communal spaces, players with earbuds provided a sense of privacy. And user-created playlists became valued expressions of individual identity.

Diamond Multimedia’s “Rio,” the first commercially successful portable digital audio player, 1998

Apple iPod, 2002

A first generation iPod containing a small hard drive with 5 gigabytes of memory that could hold 1,000 songs.

View object record

SanDisk’s Sansa MP3 player with flash memory, 2008

Gift of Eli Harari

View object record