The Golden Age of Portable Music

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Press play and NSYNC’s legendary track appears on screen. Apt. I have a small collection of iPods on hand, and to make the day a little more memorable, I pulled out the iPod I carried around in high school.

After 20 years, Apple’s iPod is finally dead. Late last week, Apple unplugged the latest in the series, the iPod Touch. The original iPod was buried a bit longer. Even so, for me and hundreds of millions of users, the iPod will forever be associated with dancing silhouettes, click wheels, a thousand songs in the pocket, and rose-tinted technology that will never quite return.

Apple’s iPod was a music player like no other.

The iPod was an MP3 music player like no other. There have been before. But nothing has truly challenged the cultural status quo quite like this. While other music players can at best store a hundred tracks, the iPod can carry your entire library. From a thousand tracks, to possibly tens of thousands. It opened up horizons for young music listeners like me. The massive storage capacity and built-in white headphones were as much a status symbol as carrying around the latest iPhone is today. But more importantly, it created a sense of belonging to a tribe. Too often I got a nod from other figures walking down the street, carrying their own iPods, plugged into their own earbuds, and immersed in a whole new world of music.

Related: 15 Best Music Player Apps for Android

The iPod also changed Apple’s fortunes. With sales topping hundreds of millions of units, it was the catalyst Apple needed to truly pull itself out of the brink of bankruptcy. But I digress.

The iPod shaped my lifelong interest in the intersection of art, design and technology.

Sure, I had NSYNC’s third album on my iPod, but it also opened up a world of a hundred new genres to me. Music has always been a part of my life, but I was no longer restricted by the limitations of tapes or CDs. Are you feeling some teenage angst? It’s time to breathe a little Evanescence or The Rasmus. Dark and gloomy weather called for Scandinavian Black Metal. A playlist of classic hip-hop and rap mixtapes was always ready for a party.

A decade and a half of reviewing phones and technology later, I can’t think of any other piece of plastic and silicon that has changed my life the way the iPod did.

Apple iPod Classic Collection

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The click wheel interface was simplistic in design but effortless in navigation. Looking at the iPods on my desk right now brings back a host of memories of lazily browsing or hopping from track to track on train trips through Europe or backpacking through Asia. The iPod did everything I needed, and nothing else. It was beautiful.

The iPod did everything I needed, and nothing else. It was beautiful.

Apple’s current lineup of products continues much of that design and simplicity-focused philosophy that the iPod pioneered, but the iPod has never been equaled. In fact, it is not possible. The iPod existed at a unique temporal phase, connected but disconnected. Mobile Internet was popular, but not widespread. The apps existed but weren’t good enough yet. Spotify was on the horizon, but Napster and iTunes were where the music was. It’s no wonder the iPod Touch could never quite decipher the cultural zeitgeist the way the classic iPod did. It did too much.

Read more: What is Spotify? Here’s everything you need to know in 2022

Listen, I’m not a saint. Growing up in India, the high seas were the common way to get music. But the iPod’s tight integration with iTunes deserves credit for more than one reason. The library of millions of songs has made discovering new music as easy as a click. I had no idea the media walled garden would become the future, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Apple iPod Classic resting on a docking station

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

My iPod on its docking station, copying a thousand new tracks while I browsed through the latest selection of music on iTunes was a ritual. It opened a window into a whole new world of media – media that was virtually inaccessible here in India. After all, who was going to store the latest version of Finnish melodeath legends, Norther?

The ritual of loading music onto the iPod and organizing a collection helped instill the habit of meticulous organization.

The ritualistic approach of loading music onto the iPod also inculcated a lifelong habit of meticulous storage and organization. Metadata tags, cover art, making sure compilation albums were marked as such – there was order out of chaos, and I know I wasn’t the only one who spent thousands of hours bringing a little common sense to their music library. Of course, that’s a moot point in today’s streaming world where you’re just consuming.

See also: 10 Best Music Apps and Music Streaming Services for Android

Classic iPod.

Hadlee Simons/Android Authority

For most, the iPod has become a relic of the past. I kept mine and added more to my collection. It reminds me of a simpler time in life when music was all that mattered and the little music player that could be a constant companion. He had character. My iPod was mine only. He let me be immersed in the sound of silence or rage against the machine without distractions. He never interrupted me with announcements or suggestions. It just allowed me and millions of other users to do what we wanted to do – immerse ourselves in the music.

Goodbye, sweet prince. Your legacy will never die.

Do you still use an Apple iPod?

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