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Suspiciously Prescient Man Files Patent for iPod-Like Device in 1979

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Kane Kramer, an inventor by trade, came up with a gadget and music distribution service almost eerily similar to the iPod-iTunes relationship that predates it by three decades. The guy predicted details down to DRM and flash memory's dominance.

Kramer's device, the IXI, was flash-based, even though flash memory in 1979 only could have held about three minutes of audio, and featured a screen, four-way controls, and was about the size of a cigarette pack. Even weirder, he envisioned the creation and sale of digital music and foresaw all the good and bad that would come from this: No overhead, no inventory, but a great push for independent artists, with the risk of piracy looming large.


He predicted DRM, though he didn't go into many specifics, and in his one concession to the time, guessed that music would be bought on coin-operated machines placed in high-traffic areas. It's creepy, really. Last year, Apple even brought him in to testify on their behalf—they weren't at risk of being sued themselves, since his patent had expired. Pretty amazing, considering there wasn't even internet at the time (he used telephone lines instead). Check out our article on the case in which Apple used his testimony for more info. [picture from CNET]


Gizmodo '79 is a week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analog age gave way to the digital, and most of our favorite toys were just being born.