Mourning the iPod

In the cacophony of reaction to a new, bright shiny object from the Apple cult, there was a death in the family that went unacknowledged this week, the Washington Post’s Scott Butterworth writes today.

The iPod is dead, he noted. He figured it out by learning the iPod classic page on the Apple site is gone.

Cue the nostalgia!

One thousand songs? Who in the world had the equivalent of 100 CDs that they’d want to hear on the go? Well, I did. The first time I saw the ad, I was looking at a TV bookended by massive, wooden towers filled with hundreds of CDs (furniture that would very soon become obsolete).

In fact, I was probably the target audience for the ad — young enough to feel passionate about new music, old enough to have the disposable income to afford this thing. Because, Lord, it was expensive: $400 at a time when other digital-music players in the local Circuit City were going for about half that much.

Four hundred bucks was more than my car payment, but I didn’t care. This iPod — whatever that meant — was beautiful, and I wanted it bad. It promised the never-ending mix tape, the opportunity to program a radio station that served a market of one: Fountains of Wayne to Janet Jackson to Nirvana to Alan Jackson to the Pretenders? No problem.

But the spirit of the click wheel will live on, the Wall St. Journal declares.

There was an emotional connection to the click-wheel iPods; an unmistakable joy that came from rolling a thumb around that smooth plastic donut.

Clicking through your library of songs, albums, playlists, artists and genres was a smile-inducing ritual. This was our connection, our bridge to the music we loved. And though the click wheel iPods could eventually play video and display photos, they were really built for music lovers.

You can still buy other iPods, PC Mag notes, but it’s only a matter of time before those are gone, too, leaving behind only the culture the high-end MP3 player changed forever.

It’s tough to understate the iPod’s impact. Keep in mind that when the iPod first launched, the iTunes Music Store didn’t exist yet—that didn’t arrive until 2003.

Before that, iTunes was a software music player. And you had to rip your own MP3 or AAC files from CDs, and transfer them between your computer and MP3 player with a USB cable, to bring your music with you. Eventually, the world moved on to buying songs and albums digitally, and now increasingly, streaming them all from the cloud.