Do you remember the time when being able to store a thousand songs on a handheld device revolutionised the way we listened to music? Yes, the iPod. That darling device that made it possible to carry music in our pockets. If I tell this to my niece and nephew they would probably laugh as they look up from their iPad. Little do they know the iPod walked so that iPads and iPhones could run.
That was in 2001, and wow has the world of music changed since. The iPod was given many makeovers over the years, and it got smaller and smaller until, at one point, you could just clip it to your t-shirt. That was the last iPod I personally had and it still works! The click wheel, a fun feature for fidgety people like myself, was replaced by seamless touch scrolling. And now, in recent years, you can have access to millions of songs on single apps, like Spotify and even Apple’s own Apple Music. We no longer need devices dedicated to simply playing music.
On May 10 2022, Apple announced the discontinuation of iPods and said “iPod touch will be available while supplies last” I said, oh great, yet another world event making me realise how old I am.
But really. While I have seen myself make the shift to music streaming apps, as a music lover, owning an iPod and using it constantly became a ritual I will never be able to pass down to younger generations.
How can I ever forget the years spent (in the US) drinking Mountain Dew to find codes for free downloads of songs on iTunes? In the early 2000s, asking my parents to pay 400 dollars for a device that plays music was a huge ask. But, I had friends in high school in the US that let me play around with theirs, marvelling at the click wheel like it’s a genius feature. And let’s not forget the stunning black and red special edition ‘U2 iPod’ that came pre-loaded with U2’s not-so-great album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The device was also engraved with signatures of the band. Arguably, perhaps the most annoying part of that edition was that U2 album.
Although I have never been a proud owner of the iPod since its inception (my very first iPod was in 2007, the shiny blue version), when I eventually received it as a birthday present from my cousin and classmates in O levels, that ritual of downloading songs on the device became almost a form of meditation.
And in Pakistan in the mid-and late noughties, and perhaps even now, downloading music wasn’t just limited to iTunes anymore. Who doesn’t remember endless spyware and viruses from LimeWire? Yet, somehow it was all worth it to have my favourite bands in my pocket. It helped me to survive my life as a teenage girl in Karachi with not much of a social life. It allowed me to handle being stuck in Karachi traffic on my way home from school every day, then university, and then eventually my first job.
Some will probably now call it an addiction, the way iPad addiction in children is a huge concern these days. But that addiction to the iPod did pave the way for the sort of connectivity we have with the world today. And staying connected in today’s day and age helps us further our aims and goals in life.
Fun Fact: Even now as an adult, when I need inspiration before giving a talk or training related to my work, I revisit Steve Jobs’ speech in which he first introduced the iPod. What was mind-blowing to me as a young-adult, is now a tinge of nostalgia, mixed with long-lasting inspiration. Jobs was a big fan of music, and watching him revolutionise the music listening experience never stops being an inspiration.
Apple’s senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak said that “…the spirit of iPod lives on.” And this can be seen in Apple’s range of other products. I appreciate this about Apple – the fact that music is at the core of all their products. And despite their other shortcomings, it appears that Apple continuously strives to make the listening experience better and better. And I, as a music journalist and a hard-core fan of music, will always admire that.