The year 2001 was notable in Apple’s history for two milestones. In January, along came iTunes. In November, along came the first iPod.
Not too bulky, not too clunky, this was a device that could play digital music files. What did that mean? It meant you didn’t have to carry a stack of CDs around with you. It meant you didn’t have to worry about your CDs getting scratched while you were out running. If you were unsure what exactly all this stuff about 5GB hard drives, Firewire connectivity, and synchronisation meant, Steve Jobs could explain it to you:
“1,000 songs in your pocket.”
A genius marketing slogan if ever there was one. Made a lot more sense than a 5GB hard drive.
My iPod, a 2nd generation, blue, 4GB version must have made its way into my hands in late 2006. I loved it. It was small, light and I was able to listen to hours of stuff. Not music. Podcasts. Thoughtfully, Apple had added podcasting to its iTunes 4.9 music software in 2005.
I was able to pound the treadmill in a Japanese gym while In Our Time enlightened me about crystallography. I was able to cross-train in Delhi while This American Life
educated me about what was actually going on over there. (This was before 2014, when Serial suddenly meant everyone else in the gym was listening to podcasts, too.)
What I liked most about my iPod is that I could listen to stuff on it. I couldn’t take photos with it. It didn’t tell me the time. It offered no calendar, no maps, no calculator, no contact list. Certainly, no-one could call me on it.
I wasn’t the only one who liked my iPod. In 2007, Apple sold its one-hundred millionth iPod, making it the biggest-selling digital music player of all time.
Now I am not the world’s greatest must-have early adopter. That is evidenced by the fact that, until recently, I was listening to Hardcore History on a 14-year-old digital device, and I am writing this blog entry in my trusty copy of Word 2007. I was getting through self-isolation just fine until…
..the battery on my 14-year-old iPod declared it was Done. I could listen for maybe 20 minutes before I had to recharge it again. This was intolerable. Some of those HH episodes are FIVE HOURS long.
Can’t just pop a new battery in. The iPod Nano 2nd Generation battery is soldered to the motherboard. (Not very green IMHO.)
I can’t do a quick course on how to learn to solder in the middle of a global pandemic. Oh, well. I’ve had 14 years. (My battery lasted rather longer than some.)
I’ll just get another iPod.
Turns out the only thing Apple sells now is the iPod Touch. It’s bigger than my old iPod. Heavier. You can play games on it. You can FaceTime with 32 of your friends on it. You can, in fact, according the marketing materials, “hold the cosmos in your hand” if you own it.
I don’t want to hold the cosmos in my hand. I don’t want to send messages with animated text effects. I want to listen to five hours about the Battle of Verdun, thank you very much. Also, I want to listen to five hours about the Battle of Verdun while offline. I don’t want to be wi-fi enabled and located to do a bit of listening.
Alas, in 2017, Apple removed the iPod Nano (and the Shuffle) from its stores. No more standalone music players from Apple.
So farewell then, little iPod. You were designed to do one thing and you did it perfectly for 14 years. I’ll be looking elsewhere for your replacement.