In Memory of the iPod: The Most Underappreciated Apple Device

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In Memory of the iPod: The Most Underappreciated Apple Device

This week, Apple announced that the company ceased production on their iPod Touch, the last iPod model standing. The Pod empire has officially fallen.

Apple released five iPod models. between October 23rd, 2001 and May 28, 2019, each of which spawned multiple generations. But the real iPod generation was the kids like me who came of age at the height of the device’s popularity. The first iPod made its debut barely two months after I started high school, and in the years that followed, came to permanently define how I listen to music.

I’m already nostalgic for the device, which is apt because the iPod was created to help fulfill Steve Jobs’ vision of returning the modern music industry to the way it functioned back when he was a kid. In a 2003 talk, he said, “We think people want to buy their music on the internet by buying downloads, just like they bought LPs, just like they bought cassettes, just like they bought CDs.”

I never owned the iPod Classic (also called the iPod 1G) because I was fourteen when the model’s first generation came out, and I didn’t have a spare $400 lying around. But if I did, I likely would have failed to appreciate the 5G hard drive, and the thousand songs the device was capable of holding. At fourteen, I could probably name 50 songs, max.

The first iPod I ever owned was a teal iPod Mini. The original Mini’s release in the winter of 2004 was notable because it was the first time Apple introduced color to their product. The new model was $100 cheaper than the Classic and only half an inch thick, so it became the go-to gadget for broke teenagers who like to travel light. I loved the color, the smooth, cold feel of the anodized aluminum, and the petite size. And I was willing to overlook the fact that the click wheel was even more sensitive than I was.

I still like to listen to music the same way I did when I was breaking in my Mini: on shuffle, walking around a city, earbuds dangling from my ears. Of course, these days, the music is streaming from Spotify and my device of choice is an iPhone. I can’t remember the last time I used an iPod or sorted through the music in my iTunes library; I stopped adding songs to my account when the streaming services took over. If you were to scroll through my iTunes library today, it looks like my music taste died back in 2012.

In the 21 and a half years since Apple released the first iPod, they sold an estimated 450 million devices. I owned at least four over the years, either purchased for myself or received as gifts. I experimented with the Shuffle during a brief running phase, and I have very specific memories of squinting to watch movies on the fifth generation iPod while on the treadmill. A few years later, after the iPhone ousted the iPod and people started handing their old devices down to their kids who were too young to be trusted with actual phones, I received a brand new iPod Nano as a gag gift in a White Elephant. Nobody else wanted it.

Apple has been phasing out the iPod for a while: they retired the classic design back in 2014. I haven’t used an iPod regularly in over ten years, but for me, its legacy is ongoing. We basically grew up together. I still remember the days of walking around with my Mini on shuffle, skipping over chapters from audio books that kept trying to interrupt the music. But like all items capable of evoking nostalgia, I don’t expect the iPod to disappear forever.

Apple plans to continue to sell their Touch model “while supplies last,” which means we’d all be wise to strategically invest in a few devices now to prepare for 2042 when the teenagers inevitably resurrect them as a means to ironically listen to music. Or, maybe the resurgence will happen sooner. We’re in the midst of a Y2K fashion and cultural revival, so maybe a return to early aughts audio trends is in order. Regardless of when it happens, I have an uncharged iPod Nano stashed away in a closet somewhere, so I’m good to go.