RIP Apple iPod: As technology gets outdated, it gets nostalgic too

My first was white, boxy, in a rubbery blue case. My second, silver. My third, pink – and that was a Shuffle, barely the size of my thumb, so it got lost somewhere in the house. If my kid finds it even though he has his own old and cracked Touch model I’m not sure he knows what it is. It’s the Apple iPod and it’s dead.

More than two decades ago, the first iPod‘s portable music player Apple, was introduced. Apple has announced that the last remaining model, the iPod Touch, will be the Swan Song; it stops with the product. With no new models planned, the iPod Touch will only be on sale “while supplies last”, including: The edge reported.

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Trust the shufflemy 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 that could store 1,000 songs, which seemed like a lot. No longer did you have to lug around dozens of CDs in heavy binders, their plastic cases that always broke or required bulky storage, or carefully pick just a selection of CDs before driving (I hope you enjoyed visiting David Bowie listens for eight hours!). Thanks to the iPod, you could always have your entire music library with you.

It also meant that your library – even your taste in music – could expand. You didn’t have to buy a whole CD or even an EP to take a shot at a new band. You could download a single song. You could carry it with you and live with it for a while. You could download tunes from bands that didn’t even have an album yet or never would (Agatha Parker SterlingI never forgot you).

The iPod, as Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing, told the BBC: “redefined how music [was] discovered, listened and shared.” It helped fuel the digital music boom that was already exploding.

MP3.com had been founded in 1997, with Napster, the popular file-sharing site, launching two years later. In 2003, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store, soon responsible for: 70% of turnover of digital music. You could legally download music (MP3.com, Napster and other file download sites were ordered to shut down or reinvent themselves without copyright infringement). Bandcamp came on the scene in 2008intended as a site where bands and indie musicians can legally sell their music digitally directly to fans.

The shuffle function of iPods gained their own kind of cult following, the device randomly picking songs. Trust the shufflemy friends would say. The shuffle knows what to hear better than you† We used the random function as a kind of oracle, a spin-the-wheel of musical signs. On a model of the iPod called the Shuffle, users couldn’t choose songs at all or even see their titles because there was no screen. The Shuffle was the smallest iPod model and the first to use flash memory.

As technology becomes obsolete, it also becomes nostalgic: longing – not exactly for a device, but for a time.

Despite selling over 450 million devices, Apple iPods didn’t withstand the test of phones. It is a difficult argument to take two devices as one, the all-powerful smartphone, ever slimmer and more powerful, can do everything, including play and store music. Those of us who resisted smartphones for a while (raises hand) may have helped keep the iPod fires burning. I also had iPods that outlived computers, putting me in the awkward digital situation of having music on my music player that didn’t exist anywhere else.

In recent years, the iPod Touch has had a sort of renaissance with parents as a kind of starter device that played music, had games and allowed children to text and communicate with their family without giving children the full power of the internet in their pocket. It was a gateway phone, the first device I bought for my son. I didn’t want to buy him a phone, but during the pandemic I realized how urgent it is for my child to have a way to contact me. Because of the iPod, he played Bad Religion over and over, and first learned to use some SMS abbreviations that I don’t understand.


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I’m freaking sad to see the iPod go. Like dial-up internet, like a time without internet, it feels like a part of childhood is disappearing too, an innocence tied to both cumbersome, early technology and the thrill of discovery — the freedom I felt when I could travel with just a thin barrel of tunes.

I remember my silver iPod kept freezing, and I learned a hack where I had to keep switching the power tab while pressing two buttons at once. This seemed fine to me, worth it for so much magic. As technology becomes obsolete, it also becomes nostalgic: longing – not exactly for a device, but for a time. When we didn’t have everything within reach, when we didn’t know everything; when some things were as mysterious as what song would play next.

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