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A eulogy for the iPod

By Thomas Johnson, October 10 2017 —

The thought of you no longer singing me to work everyday and sleep every night, never crossed my mind. The happiness you gave burned greater than the laws of nature — eternal, above the concept of a lifespan. Yet still, I have to accept your death. My dear 160GB iPod Classic, serial number 32038079267, how I will miss you.

These are the last days of the iPod. On Sept. 9, 2014, Apple announced the discontinuation of the the iPod Classic. For purists, traditionalists, romantics and the protagonist of Baby Driver, the report spelled the end of a cherished moment in the lives of a niche group of millennials. When production ended for Apple’s best piece of hardware, it was tacitly and begrudgingly acknowledged that death sentences would follow for the remaining lineage of Apple’s legendary devices.

In July 2017, the last nail was driven into the coffin. The iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano, both on the cusp of entering their teenage years, were put to rest due to plummeting sales. A formal end came to the greatest line of electronics to ever grace the shelves of big-market tech retailers worldwide. The bastardized iPod Touch is the lone descendant to bear the family name, but the only iPods I acknowledge had a click-wheel.

The iPod catalyzed Apple’s transformation from tech-giant to cultural force. It radically transformed music’s landscape, causing tectonic shifts which continue to displace the music-sharing market. Twenty years ago, as I’m sure your father has told you, the idea of holding thousands of songs in your pocket was unfathomable. Now the idea of plugging your headphones into your closed-circuit iPod — free of emails, iMessages, calls and increasingly disturbing updates regarding the world’s sordid state of affairs — is one of the past. What was once the crowning gem of Silicon Valley’s exponential progress has become another obsolete medium.

Millions of young-adult lives, whose formative years fell between the rise of MP3s and its upheaval by streaming, are hidden within their iPods’ libraries. Innumerable memories flood into my mind as I reminisce about my collection of iPods through the years.

For example, in seventh-grade homeroom, pulling — from my change pocket, as Steve Jobs did when he introduced it to the world — a royal blue iPod Nano, thinner than a #2 pencil. Clipping my first iPod Shuffle to the waistband of my shorts as I took up running and minutes later unclipping that same iPod Shuffle as I realized running wasn’t my thing. Watching the blue bar denoting those iPod’s capacity slowly fill and the euphoric, bittersweet triumph that washed over me when the pop-up informed me no space remained. My greatest romance, however, was with my most recent iPod — a Classic, with a tiny chip taken from the top corner of its face, bright until its last song. I’ll never forget holding it in my hands.

It was fine the night before it died. We listened to the new 2 Chainz album — we kept replaying “Rolls Royce Bitch.” When I awoke, it would not respond. It had moved on from the world as the world had moved on from it, its life extinguished. I’ve never known a truer companion. Wherever you are now, I hope the drums knock as crisp as J Dilla and the twang of strings ring as clear as if plucked by Paganini himself. My iPod, I hope you are among your brothers and sisters now — Shuffles, Nanos, Minis — scratch-free, fully charged and loaded to their flash-memory’s brim, glinting in eternal sunlight as warm as the bass emitting from their 3.5-mm stereo headphone jacks. I hope your battery lasts as long as there is music to be played.

You will not be the Discman. You will not be forgotten.

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