Rediscovering the iPod as Apple Retires It Forever
As Apple announced last week that it was retiring the iPod, I haphazardly found mine after losing it almost six years ago. Funny how the universe works sometimes.
Considering I found it in a box of stuff I had taken out of my old pickup truck, I apparently threw it in a box when I traded in the truck for my current vehicle, and stuck that box in a corner in my basement. I then proceeded to search 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 one lone box behind an old broken television in the corner, and realized it was a box of stuff I had taken out of the truck. You can imagine how elated I was when I started rooting through the box and discovered my iPod – complete with charger – sitting at the bottom. You can see by the image above of my actual iPod just how beat up and dirty it is after all these years.
When the iPod debuted in 2002, I was skeptical. I love music, and I had amassed a large cassette collection from about 1987 until I switched exclusively to CDs around 1999, but I still kept all my cassettes in an old, beat-up restaurant egg box for another 10 years after that.
When the iPod was first released, I was all in on burning CDs from files I had downloaded off Napster and Limewire (I think the statute of limitations has run out, so I can say that). I drove around with one of those folders that holds 100 CDs, plus had another sleeve on my visor that held another 20.
At first, I wasn’t sure one tiny little device could duplicate that experience for me, so I was reluctant to buy an iPod. While everyone else was buying their iPod Classic, I was buying more blank CD-Rs.
Then, I happened upon a generic MP3 player on sale at CVS for $30. I purchased it as a way to delve into the world of these things called “podcasts,” and I quickly filled it up with music and realized just how great this format truly was. I then became obsessed with getting an iPod.
Every year for Christmas or my birthday, my family would always give me gift cards, which I would then save up until I wanted to buy something big. I had about $400 in Best Buy gift cards saved up, and that was about the price of a new iPod. I went to the Dartmouth Best Buy and happened upon an open display model 30 gigabyte iPod that was being sold for $300, and finally pulled the trigger. My only regret was that I couldn’t find the U2 model that I wanted more than anything.
I went home and began the arduous process of transferring all of my CDs and digital downloads to the iPod. When all was said and done, I had 4,100 songs packed onto it, with all of my eclectic music choices, everything from 1920s jazz and blues to 1990s hip hop to the entire catalog of many of my favorite bands and artists.
That was in 2005 or so, and for the next 10 years, my iPod went with me everywhere I went. It would be in my pocket, the same way I now carry AirPods and my current music-listening device – my cell phone. I had charging cables and aux 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 connected it to the iPod to play old-time radio shows the way they were originally presented.
Later, I purchased an iPod Touch, thinking it would be an upgrade to my iPod Classic experience. It wasn’t. I could never get into the Touch, and kept using the Classic. I’ve had the Touch sitting in a desk drawer for years, and I never bothered to pull it out ever again.
For the past week now, I’ve been immersed in the music, and even some of the old videos, that I saved on my iPod. All of the oldies, all of the ‘90s one-hit wonders, all of the old podcasts and the stuff that I had just plain forgotten. It is like rediscovering who I was back in 2016, and I’m a little sad that future music lovers will not know the love of having all of your music packed into one spot.
Streaming is nice, but streaming doesn’t give you the same feeling of ownership over your music collection. The iPod has no internet connection, it has no recommended selections (and therefore no data mining), and it has no agenda. It’s just your music, that you installed on it, and it will play it in whatever order you wish to play it. It’s a truly personal, curated playlist. It’s the last way you can use music as a way to disconnect from everything else.
Yes, the iPod is going away forever. Apple is ceasing production, and the last remaining iPod Touches for sale will be the last iPods ever sold new. I would expect the secondary market is going to explode as people become nostalgic for the iPod, and perhaps someday, it will make a comeback as a niche medium the same way vinyl and even cassettes have made comebacks in recent years.
Having the entire world of music in the palm of your hand is no longer as earth-shattering as it once was, but finding my iPod in that old cardboard box made me feel just as excited about the music possibilities as it did when I first purchased it.