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RIP iPods (Image: Tina Tiller)
RIP iPods (Image: Tina Tiller)

TechMay 13, 2022

To all the iPods we’ve loved before

RIP iPods (Image: Tina Tiller)
RIP iPods (Image: Tina Tiller)

In May 2022, to mark the end of the line for the iPod, a product most assumed Apple had stopped making years ago, we looked back on the portable music devices we’d loved and, in most cases, lost.

My own private indie disco

(Second generation iPod classic with touch wheel – 10GB)

It’s hard to overstate just how life-changing it was to get my first iPod in 2002. It was a heavy white plastic slab, with clunky click-wheel and a boxy display, but my god, I loved that thing. I was living in London at the time, and for me and thousands of other tube users, the iPod was a transformational device, bestowing on us the ability to tune out the babbling of fellow passengers and the screech of train tracks with almost any song we liked. What was I playing? The Strokes first album, probably; Bjork’s Vespertine, definitely. Having an iPod was like being at my own private indie disco, all day and night.

I left that iPod in a plane seat pocket on the flight home from London and never saw it again. I was devastated. My second iPod, a 2007 classic (80GB), was lighter, faster, better in every way. But that was the same year the iPhone launched, and though we didn’t realise it yet, the iPod was already living on borrowed time. That iPod died eight years later, destroyed by raindrops that had trickled down the earphone cable and into its inner workings. I was sad, but it wasn’t like before. Nothing hurts like your first heartbreak, I guess. / Catherine McGregor

The world’s biggest waste of annual leave

(Fifth generation iPod classic with colour screen – 60GB)

It arrived in a package far bigger than was necessary. White, sleek, with that famous click wheel – I fell in love with my brand new iPod on sight, and immediately booked two weeks off work. From my chilly rental in wintery Upper Hutt, I began the tedious task of converting my massive CD collection into 320kb mp3 files. Right now, I can’t think of anything more depressing. Back then, it felt pioneering.

For days, I sat there, opening and closing CD cases and computer trays, ripping away, wondering why I held onto the complete works of Limp Bizkit. Then tragedy struck. On day seven, just as I’d reached the letter ‘M’ (Massive Attack to Mudvayne), my computer crashed, wiping the hard drive, and with it the entire contents of my iPod. I took a day off, then got back to ripping – but I never felt the same way about it again. / Chris Schulz

Afternoons with Ricky, Steve and Karl

(Second generation iPod mini (pink) – 6GB)

My first iPod was a pink mini, jam-packed with inherited emo pop punk delights from the likes of Say Anything and HelloGoodbye, as well as the occasional janky LimeWire download that would prank you with a strange address from President Clinton saying “my fellow Americans” or a version of ‘Thinking of You’ by Katy Perry that was extremely not ‘Thinking Of You’ by Katy Perry. But, for me, even more formative than the music was the introduction to primitive podcasting. Supercuts of Ricky Gervais’ XFM radio show (I know, I know) were my soundtrack through the school gates, bus rides home, and later in the car through one of those weird FM radio doodackys.

Eventually I upgraded to a white iPod classic around sixth form, wowed by the storage, the colour screen and the ability to play videos. For a good few months, I would put the sleep timer on and watch an mp4 of Bridget Jones’s Diary on my iPod until I drifted off, dreaming only of blue soup and “just stir it Una”. I distinctly remember lying there one night in the dark with a ratty $2 shop headphone in my ear, watching the ‘All By Myself’ lip sync on a glowing screen the size of a matchbox, and thinking that content would never, ever, ever, get any better than this. In hindsight, I actually kinda think I was right. / Alex Casey

Walks down to the ferry

(Sixth generation iPod classic – 160GB)

By the time my first iPod died in 2014 it had about 13,000 songs on it. Many of them were mislabelled, with full artist and song names in the title, or completely corrupted (I have a fond memory of Faith Hill’s ‘Piece of My Heart’ somehow getting spliced with a Nightwish song). When that iPod petered out and I couldn’t get the battery replaced, life got verifiably worse. But that Christmas, my best friend gave me his iPod – a sixth generation iPod classic. It became a weird bonding thing for us – whenever he would take the ferry home we’d walk down to the terminal with it, trying to squeeze in as many songs as we could. 

The moment I cherish most is us sitting there, one headphone in each ear, listening to a latter day Tori Amos song (‘Taxi Ride’, I think), waiting for the ferry to arrive. It’s definitely something that could happen now, but shoving an airpod in each ear and looking a song up on Spotify doesn’t have quite the same thrill as clicking that little wheel through thousands of songs, each of them on there because I love it just a little bit. / Sam Brooks

Electric shocks of love

(Second generation iPod nano – 8GB)

The most thrilling thing about my family’s black iPod Nano was the electric shocks. These were a testament to what it had survived: jammed in backpacks to be carried in rickety buses over Himalayan passes, clutched in small sweaty palms in train trips across the Indian subcontinent, sand jammed in the click wheel from visits to distant beaches. This wear and tear had eroded the casing so that it sparked with shocks if you didn’t hold it just right.

The second most thrilling thing about the iPod was that it could be shared: with a headphone splitter, my siblings and I would sit close together in intense concentration, tussling over the spinning control. Maybe we’d listen to Storytime Treasure Chest, downloaded to the iTunes library by my mother, who we were convinced was a technical genius. Maybe we’d listen to rips of Indigo Girls, Nature’s Best and Putamayo CDs, the tracklists all in lower case. I didn’t realise, then, that the contents of the iPod, offered to bored children, was my mother’s way of giving the music she loved to her offspring. / Shanti Mathias

You can listen to Prince anywhere

(Fifth generation iPod classic)

It’s wild to remember what a revelation the iPod was in the time before smartphones. I resisted for a while because the things were expensive, but I remember seeing an interview with cantankerous old Warren Ellis from the Dirty Three where he talked about being in the middle of nowhere and getting the sudden urge to listen to Prince, and how the iPod meant he could now scratch that itch. I wanted so badly to be someone who could conjure up Prince at the slightest whim. And what an absolute miracle it was. My most prized possession on planet earth for a while there. / Toby Morris

No compression required

(Fifth generation iPod classic – 30GB)

I recently exhumed my old iPod from its shoebox crypt, and miraculously also managed to find the USB charger that went with it. I expected it to be a time capsule of Pitchfork-approved mid-2000s indie [cue The National ‘Mr November’], but my archaeological scrolling uncovered evidence of a time I’d completely forgotten: the mp3 blog era [record scratch]. 

Actually there’s still heaps of 00s indie on there, but this particular iPod also serves as time capsule of the brief post-physical media, pre-streaming media window where music was consumed (by losers like me at least) by trawling Google Reader for “hidden gem” Brazilian folk albums from the 70s and high quality audiophile rips of original pressing Beatles records. The lossless FLAC version of No Jacket Required still sounds absolutely incredible. / Calum Henderson

Hold me closer, tiny jukebox

(iPod mini (green) – 6GB)

The iPod times were good times. Out with the trusty, clunky Discman (or MiniDisc if you were really flash), in with the tiny jukebox to which you will spend several hundred hours uploading your music collection (via a CD-Rom drive), unlistenable bootleg mashups and terrible misanthropic Ricky Gervais podcasts. (Younger colleagues were astonished to hear that audio series saved to iPads are officially called “padcasts”.)

The iPod times were times of buffering, Netflix sending out CDs in the post, MySpace. A wireless speaker was someone talking on the radio. I carried mine everywhere I went, in the opposite pocket to my Blackberry. Never will any generation be better at tracing perfect circles with their thumbs. / Toby Manhire

My dark twisted love story

(Sixth generation iPod classic – 160GB)

I searched my Twitter account and discovered a story of deep, passionate love and a brutality I didn’t know I was capable of. 

It started heavy, passionate, monogamous. June 20, 2009: When I got my first iPod I swear to god it meant more to me than my first boyfriend

Then something bad happened. 7:51pm, July 6, 2011: Um if I hit restore on iTunes for my iPod do I lose all my music on my iPod? I think it just got a bit excited about Meatloaf. 8:00pm, July 6, 2011: I think my iPod just died. Turns out it won’t do anything for love.

Then it got bleak. October 30, 2011: Everything is flat-phone, camera, iPod. 

We tried to reconcile. November 28, 2012: Going to trawl my iPod. It’s gone the way of my CDs. I expect angst and forgotten treasure.

It looked like we were going to make it….

Until a brutal track record was revealed. May 18, 2015: It turns out I dumped that music onto an iPod. It’s been in the same box as my CDs for 2 years. 

RIP iPod, I really did love you more than my first boyfriend. Sorry to that guy – at least you’re not under the stairs in a box. / Anna Rawhiti-Connell

What the hell is this

There’s always one

(Microsoft Zune 30 (brown))

The Zune had so much promise. I loved its little boxy brown body. It had 30 gigs of storage, an amazing screen, and wifi! You could download songs on the fly, and share what you were listening to on the “Zune Social”. There was even a Zune Social widget that I proudly added to my signature.

You could also send a song wirelessly to a friend with a Zune, and they could listen to that song up to 3 times over 3 days. None of my friends had a Zune. / Ben Gracewood

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