Rediscovering the iPod as Apple retires it forever


As Apple announced last week that it was retiring the iPod, I found mine by chance after losing it almost six years ago. Funny how the universe works sometimes.

Considering I found it in a box of stuff I pulled out of my old van, I apparently threw it in a box when I swapped the truck for my current one, and stuck that box in a corner of my basement. I then searched for my iPod for the next half-decade, apparently forgetting all about that box. I was convinced it was gone forever.

While cleaning out the basement last weekend, I found this single box behind an old broken TV in the corner, and realized it was a box of stuff I had pulled out of the truck. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I started poking around in the box and discovered my iPod – with charger – sitting at the bottom. You can see by the image above of my current iPod how battered and dirty it is after all these years.

When the iPod debuted in 2002, I was skeptical. I love music and had amassed a large collection of tapes from around 1987 until I switched exclusively to CDs around 1999, but I still kept all my tapes in an old restaurant egg carton battered for another 10 years after that.

When the iPod first came out, I was all about burning CDs from files I downloaded from Napster and Limewire (I think the statute of limitations has expired, so I can to say it). I rode with one of those folders that holds 100 CDs, and I had another pocket on my visor that held another 20.

At first, I wasn’t sure if a tiny device could replicate that experience for me, so I was reluctant to buy an iPod. While everyone was buying their iPod Classic, I was buying more blank CD-Rs.

Then I came across a generic MP3 player on sale at CVS for $30. I bought it to dive into the world of these things called “podcasts”, and quickly filled it with music and realized how awesome this format really was. I then became obsessed with buying an iPod.

Every year, for Christmas or my birthday, my family always gave me gift cards, which I then saved up until I wanted to buy something big. I had about $400 in Best Buy gift cards, and that was about the price of a new iPod. I went to the Best Buy in Dartmouth and came across an open-screen 30 gigabyte iPod that was selling for $300, and I finally pulled the trigger. My only regret was not having found the U2 model that I wanted more than anything.

I got home and started the arduous process of transferring all my CDs and digital downloads to the iPod. In the end, I had 4,100 songs packed onto it, with all of my eclectic musical choices, ranging from 1920s jazz and blues to 1990s hip hop to the entire catalog of many of my bands and favorite artists.

That was around 2005, and for the next 10 years my iPod went with me everywhere I went. It would be in my pocket, the same way I carry AirPods now and my current music listening device – my cell phone. I had charging cables and auxiliary cables in every vehicle I might travel in, as well as plugged into my home stereo system and the boom box I kept at work. I even took an old 1939 Westinghouse console radio and hooked it up to the iPod to play old-time radio shows as they were originally presented.

Later, I bought an iPod Touch, thinking it would be an upgrade from my iPod Classic experience. This was not the case. I was never able to get into the Touch and continued to use the Classic. I had the Touch sitting in a desk drawer for years, and never bothered to remove it ever again.

For a week now, I’ve been immersed in music, and even some of the old videos, which I saved on my iPod. All the old ones, all the 90s hit wonders, all the old podcasts and the stuff I just forgot about. It’s like rediscovering who I was in 2016, and I’m kind of sad that future music lovers don’t know the love of having all your music in one place.

Streaming is nice, but streaming doesn’t give you the same sense of ownership over your music collection. The iPod has no Internet connection, it has no recommended selections (and therefore no data exploration), and it has no calendar. It’s just your music, which you have installed on it, and it will play it in whatever order you want to play it. It’s a truly personal and curated playlist. It’s the latest way to use music to disconnect from everything else.

Yes, the iPod is gone forever. Apple is ceasing production and the last remaining iPod Touch for sale will be the last iPods sold new. I expect the secondary market to explode as people get nostalgic for the iPod, and maybe one day it will make a comeback as a niche medium, similar to vinyl and even cassette tapes have made a comeback in recent years.

Having the whole world of music in the palm of your hand isn’t as overwhelming as it once was, but finding my iPod in that old cardboard box made me feel just as excited about the musical possibilities. than on my first purchase. this.

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