My first was in a white, boxy, rubberized blue case. My second, silver. My third, pink – and that was a Shuffle, barely the size of my thumb, so it’s lost somewhere in the house. If my kid does find it, even though he has his own old and broken Touch model, I’m not sure he’ll know what it is. It’s the Apple iPod and it’s dead.
Two decades ago, the first iPod, Apple’s portable music player, was introduced. Apple has announced the last remaining model, the iPod Touch, will be its swan song; This is discontinuing the product. As reported by The Verge, with no new models planned, the iPod Touch will only be available for sale “as long as supplies last.”
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rely on shuffle, my friends would say. We used the random function as a kind of oracle.
When the first iPod hit the market in 2001, it was a remarkable device capable of storing 1,000 songs, which seemed like a lot. No longer did you need to keep dozens of CDs in bulky binders, their plastic cases always shattering or needing heavy storage, or just needing to carefully select a selection of CDs before a car trip (hopefully). You’ll be happy listening to David Bowie for eight hours!). The iPod meant that you could carry your entire music library with you at all times.
It also meant that your library – even your musical tastes – could expand. You didn’t have to buy an entire CD or EP to take a chance on a new band. You can download a song. You can take it with you and live with it for some time. You can download tunes from bands that haven’t had an album yet or never will (Agatha Parker Sterling, I Never Forget You).
As Greg Joswiak, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, told the BBC, “Music redefines how [was] Discovered, heard and shared.” It helped power the digital music boom, which was already exploding.
MP3.com was founded in 1997 along with the popular file-sharing site Napster, which was launched two years later. In 2003, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store, which soon accounted for 70% of digital music sales. You can download music legally (MP3.com, Napster and other file-downloading sites were ordered to shut down or reinstall themselves) without copyright infringement. Bandcamp came on the scene in 2008, conceived as a site where bands and indie musicians could legally sell their music digitally directly to fans.
The iPod’s shuffle function garnered a cult following of its own, with the device choosing songs at random. rely on shuffleMy friends would say. Shuffle knows what you need to hear better than you, We used the random function as a kind of oracle, a spin-the-wheel of musical cues. A model of the iPod called the Shuffle did not allow users to choose songs or even view their titles, which lacked a screen. The Shuffle was the smallest model of the iPod and the first model to use flash memory.
As technology becomes obsolete, so does the nostalgia: the longing—not for a tool, but for a time.
Despite selling around 450 million devices, Apple iPods didn’t quite live up to the phone test. It’s a tough argument to carry two devices when one, almighty smart phone, always thinner and more powerful, can do everything, including play and store music. Those of us who have resisted smart phones for a while (raise our hands) may have helped kindle the iPod fire. I also had iPods that outpaced computers, putting me in the uncomfortable digital position of having music on my music player that didn’t live anywhere else.
In recent years, the iPod touch has enjoyed a renaissance as a kind of starter device for parents to play music, games, and with their families without giving kids the full power of the Internet in their pockets. Allowed to text and communicate. It was a gateway phone, the first device I bought my son. I didn’t want to buy a go-to phone for her, but during the pandemic, I realized that my child has a way of contacting me. Because of the iPod, he played Bad Religion over and over again, and first learned to use some texting abbreviations that I don’t understand.
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I am strangely sad to see the iPod go away. Like dial-up internet, like time Without it The Internet, it seems, is also a part of childhood, an innocence associated with both the cumbersome, early technology and the excitement of discovery—the freedom I felt when I could travel with a thin pot of tunes.
I remember my silver iPod freezing, and I learned a hack where I had to toggle the on/off tab while pressing two buttons at once. It felt perfectly fine to me, worthy of such magic. As technology becomes obsolete, so does the nostalgia: the longing—not for a tool, but for a time. When we didn’t have everything at our fingertips, when we didn’t know everything; When few things were as mysterious as which song to play next.
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