MP3 Insider has taken a look at the evolution of the iPod’s innovative scroll wheel, considered by many to be it’s most innovative feature, and the key to it’s success.
The scrollwheel has been through three iterations. The first one actually rotated; then there was the touch-sensitive one; and finally there’s the clickable one found on the iPod Mini and fourth-generation iPod.
I’d always assumed that this bit of design genius sprung from Apple’s R&D labs, but, in fact, I discovered that a company called Synaptics, which primarily makes touchpads for laptops, actually designed this little piece of navigational heaven, in accordance with Apple’s stringent design requirements.
When you think about it, that makes sense. Synaptics has done wonders with the touchpad. Mine even (usually) senses the difference between finger-tapping and an accidental brush of the palm (If only their Windows drivers were as good as the Linux ones). They’re a natural to design something like the scroll wheel.
The article also includes pictures of what the actual components of the wheel looks like, which is pretty interesting.