1979 British inventor Kane Kramer conceives the first digital audio player, the IXI. He applies for a patent in 1981 but never sells one commercially.
Sept. 23, 1996 Audio Highway announces the first commercial portable MP3 player. Just 25 are made.
June 1999 Napster is released. It isn’t the first P2P network, but it quickly becomes dominant, and is widely credited for the global spread of illegal music sharing and the subsequent woes of the music industry.
Oct. 23, 2001 The iPod is unveiled (suggested retail: $399) three months after Napster is shut down. Steve Jobs specifies that every one be wrapped with a sticker reading ”Don’t Steal Music.”
July 17, 2002 Apple announces the first Windows-compatible iPods, vastly increasing the potential market.
April 28, 2003 The iTunes Music Store launches with 200,000 songs priced at 99 cents apiece. Within a week, one million songs are sold.
Sept. 2003 Ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day debuts the long-running and iconic iPod silhouette ad campaign.
Jan. 6, 2004 Apple announces the iPod Mini, the then-smallest MP3 player able to hold 1,000 CD-quality songs, available in several colors.
Oct. 26, 2004 — Apple introduces the iPod U2 Special Edition with its distinctive black-and-red color scheme. Bono calls the iPod ”the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar.”
January 11, 2005 Apple introduces the iPod Shuffle, the first model under $100.
September 7, 2005 Apple introduces the ultraslim iPod Nano to replace the Mini. Apple will eventually pay $22.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming Nano screens scratch too easily.
October 12, 2005 The iTunes Music Store begins selling music videos and TV shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives. Within 20 days, more than a million are sold.
November 14, 2006 Microsoft releases the Zune media player, a direct competitor to the iPod. It will be discontinued less than five years later.
June 29, 2007 The iPhone arrives and, despite a $499 price tag, quickly sells out to throngs lined up days in advance outside Apple’s retail stores.
September 5, 2007 The iPod Touch is unveiled; by 2011, it will account for half of all iPod sales.
April 3, 2008 Apple announces that iTunes is now the No. 1 U.S. music retailer. By June, the store will have sold 5 billion songs.
July 10, 2008 The App Store launches. Some 10 million apps are downloaded in the first weekend, and 1.5 billion in the first year.
March 29, 2010 Apple releases the iPad. Despite some skeptical reviews, 15 million are sold by the end of the year.
September 1, 2010 Apple introduces the new iPod Touch, Nano, and Shuffle; the company announces that 275 million iPods have been sold to date.
Oct. 14, 2011 The iPhone 4S debuts to record sales of 4 million in a single weekend. A few days later, Apple’s quarterly financial results reveal iPod sales have gradually slumped to 2005 levels.