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.
There you have it folks. The real inspiration for Apple's game-changing iPod, courtesy of the world's unluckiest Briton, Kane Kramer, 52 (not including the fifth Beatle). You see, in the dark technological days of 1979, Kramer saw a beacon of light in his IXI. Capable of playing a mind-busting 3.5 minutes of music, the IXI prototype was Kramer's ticket out of obscurity. Sadly, when he couldn't raise enough venture funding to renew the IXI patent in 1988, the device became the Zune of its time, and was largely forgotten. Fast forward to the present, when Apple, fresh from making year-over-year record profits with the iPod, needed Kramer something fierce to bail them out of a lawsuit jam with Burst.com.
"I can’t even bring myself to buy an iPod for myself," he said. "Apple did give me one but it broke down after eight months." Hmm. Apple products seem to be doing that a lot these days.
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