Mourning the iPod

In the cacophony of reaction to a new, bright shiny object from the Apple cult, there was a death in the family that went unacknowledged this week, the Washington Post’s Scott Butterworth writes today.

The iPod is dead, he noted. He figured it out by learning the iPod classic page on the Apple site is gone.

Cue the nostalgia!

One thousand songs? Who in the world had the equivalent of 100 CDs that they’d want to hear on the go? Well, I did. The first time I saw the ad, I was looking at a TV bookended by massive, wooden towers filled with hundreds of CDs (furniture that would very soon become obsolete).

In fact, I was probably the target audience for the ad — young enough to feel passionate about new music, old enough to have the disposable income to afford this thing. Because, Lord, it was expensive: $400 at a time when other digital-music players in the local Circuit City were going for about half that much.

Four hundred bucks was more than my car payment, but I didn’t care. This iPod — whatever that meant — was beautiful, and I wanted it bad. It promised the never-ending mix tape, the opportunity to program a radio station that served a market of one: Fountains of Wayne to Janet Jackson to Nirvana to Alan Jackson to the Pretenders? No problem.

But the spirit of the click wheel will live on, the Wall St. Journal declares.

There was an emotional connection to the click-wheel iPods; an unmistakable joy that came from rolling a thumb around that smooth plastic donut.

Clicking through your library of songs, albums, playlists, artists and genres was a smile-inducing ritual. This was our connection, our bridge to the music we loved. And though the click wheel iPods could eventually play video and display photos, they were really built for music lovers.

You can still buy other iPods, PC Mag notes, but it’s only a matter of time before those are gone, too, leaving behind only the culture the high-end MP3 player changed forever.

It’s tough to understate the iPod’s impact. Keep in mind that when the iPod first launched, the iTunes Music Store didn’t exist yet—that didn’t arrive until 2003.

Before that, iTunes was a software music player. And you had to rip your own MP3 or AAC files from CDs, and transfer them between your computer and MP3 player with a USB cable, to bring your music with you. Eventually, the world moved on to buying songs and albums digitally, and now increasingly, streaming them all from the cloud.

  • John O.

    I still have my 20 GB *original* iPod (with the firewire cable) that still works, but is now retired to my desk drawer at home.

  • Paul Weimer

    My small Ipod Nano is quirky and probably on its last legs. I used to think its 8GB of space was the bees knees. Now its not enough space by half…

    • I still use my 6th Gen Nano (the little square) in my car (2000 Audi). I have it wired up to the original head unit and it’s so freaking small I can hide it in the center console.

      I used to have an original “white brick” until someone “liberated” it from my car.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I remember drooling over them in college. At one point a few months before graduation I was in the electronics aisle at Target to buy one if someone would have been there to open the case. $399 they were back then I think. Good fortune no one was there though. By the time I got my first paycheck in the real world I had all of $72 to my name and would have been officially broke had I bought it.

    My first iPod, bought in 2004, still holds an honored place in my house.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    This isn’t so much death as transition. The iPod now goes from commercial product to cultural artifact. Sites like http://www.techhive.com/article/160510/apple_ipod_museum_17_models_past_present.html will keep the memory of the iPod alive. The commercials will exist on YouTube unless Apple throws a tantrum. One of the crazy things about the Internet is that it has room for an almost infinite number of if highly specialized “virtual museums”.

  • Tyler

    I was a snob that bought a Rio Karma – not nearly the battery life or storage (limited to 20 GB) but the sound quality was much better, and it could perform a trick that I think might still be an issue with the ipods of today: gapless playback. If you had two tracks that blended seamlessly together on a CD, the ipods would put a short silent break in between them.

    All of this is to say – our smartphones are so capable that we’re leaving the era of the digital gadget. No separate devices for communication (pagers), navigation (GPS), music (mp3), time (!) – each of these gadgets had their own little tricks that smartphones can’t do. I’m glad to only charge one device, but I miss them a little bit, nonetheless.

    • joetron2030

      I’ve never had an issue with gapless playback on my 30GB 5th gen, iPod w/ Video, my 4th gen. 30GB iPod Touch, or my 6th gen. iPod nano. Sometimes, those issues with gapless playback had more to do with how the audio tracks were ripped.

  • Jeff

    When I got my 2nd generation iPod Touch I thought it was amazing. I still do. It does everything I need – allows me easy access to my email, calendar and contacts, gets me to the Internet when I’m at home or work, records some podcasts, has some music on it. I don’t have a cell phone (and a monthly bill) and feel that I don’t because the one thing that I can’t do that would be nice to do is make/receive phone calls with with iPod. But I don’t need that so badly that it is worth paying $50/month. Thankfully it appears that the iPod touch, nano and shuffle will live on – only the Classic appears to have died.

    http://www.apple.com/ipod/compare-ipod-models/