• It was nearly a decade ago. I was sick and tired of carrying my CDs from one car to another (don’t ask, but if you must: it’s a family/communal set of cars). Anyway, I hated forgetting a CD I’d needed in the other car, which it made my commute a music-less hell. I thought there should be a better way of taking all my songs from one place to another without the bulk and heft of whatever was available at that time.

      Then I heard about the iPod.

      By Robert Gauna

      As if this so-called “magical” device changed the world then or a bit earlier. I was a die-hard Microsoft fan, so I couldn’t care less about anything from Apple. On the other hand, I hated all the other bulky MP3 players, so the iPod intrigued me because everyone else had one.

      iPod groovingThat’s when I decided to take the plunge; I headed out to BestBuy and picked it up — the 4th Generation iPod. It was beautiful. Stunning. One of the first things I’d bought myself with my first real job out of college. The iPod was the first translucent, white I’d ever seen before; it was inviting, but not cold. The aluminum back made it feel sturdy and dignified, unlike everything else on the market. The unique scroll-wheel interface fascinated me — it didn’t feel tedious to navigate through my playlists and songs, and yet it was gratifying to use just to spin around and hear the clicking sound as I scrolled through the songs I’d downloaded.

      Love at first sight

      I was in love. Driving the 101 was not horrible anymore since I stuck my brand-spanking-new music player in my cassette adapter.101 traffic jam Gone was my brother’s obsolete Sony MiniDisc player (RIP 2013, fittingly), in which I had to pack a bunch of discs, fumble for the right one, and shove it in the player while weaving through traffic. I left the ’90s behind and entered the new century with my iPod in tow.

      I revved up the playlist I’d programmed the night before, set the player to random, and just cruised through the freeway amidst heavy traffic and angry drivers headed to parts unknown. It didn’t matter. The sound quality at the time was acceptable; low bitrates be damned. Napster was still around then, but it was going down quickly. So all my friends figured out a way to transfer the songs off each other’s drives and share them. For all its ugliness today, iTunes was actually a useful product in the beginning — making the ripping of songs from CDs a pastime instead of being the monster it is now. In fact, iTunes made music so affordable at 99¢ per song that I realized how much money I’d wasted on CDs by listening to only one track at a time.

      Apple is on Fire

      On the other hand, having an iPod was a vice, too. I started out with iPod’s 10GBs but quickly realized they weren’t enough. Apple on fireLater on, I forked out more cash for the 20GB upgrade, then missed the video iPod that came out a few months later.
      I couldn’t believe it, but Apple was on fire! As much as I love Microsoft, Apple kept figuring out a way to yank my heart away from it.

      And it finally did in 2007 with the iPhone. I was one of the guys who put down 600 bucks somewhere in Downtown LA to get the Sony P900, which promised a lot but under-delivered. So seeing the iPhone for the first time, and being as skeptical as I was, I returned to BestBuy and just fell in love again. I took home my first iPhone as soon as ATT paid most of the cost as its carrier, something unheard of at the time.

      Day the Pod diedMy iPod stayed in the car more than the iPhone, as the iPhone was less bulky to carry around. So she sat there and waited to take me home when the time came. She never complained that there was less time between us, and as a loyal best friend, kept running and humming, making sure I felt at ease driving around Los Angeles.

      Beginning of the end

      I suppose she knew her time was coming to an end. The iPad came and took her place at home, and the iPhone’s Internet became useful enough that Pandora took over. She stayed in a corner of a cabinet, gathering dust. The click-wheel era was over once touch screens came out. The hard drive started failing once the mobile Internet exploded. She died, and I didn’t even remember the loss, even after replacing her batteries one last time a few years back.

      However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that — along with the iPhone 6 Launch — Apple had quietly pulled the plug on the iPod and with it, the iPod era. Death of an iPodI mean, it’s still there, being a part of the iPhone. But people forget how much of an impact the iPod had had. I remember its cool Technicolor posters on every street and bus on Sunset Boulevard. The iPod created a lifestyle in which I’d been judged by the quality of artists and songs I’d had on my playlist well before I started posting it on Facebook. Recording artists wanted to be featured on an iPod in TV ads and probably would have begged Steve Jobs to feature them in one or another of those commercials. Pedestrians also walked around, listening to songs in their own little worlds, sharing MP3s when they could.

      Walkman Years

      It reminded me of Sony, who was cool when it invented the Walkman — the same Walkman that carried me through my awkward years of high school and successes and failures in college. Sony was great until it felt it was cooler with the PlayStation crowd. Highschool graduationSomewhere along the way, it forgot about us, who loved the Walkman, forcing us on stupid kinds of media when it missed a huge music renaissance, where songs and artists became more accessible with the iPod era. This was ironic because Sony owned its own music publishing company. Apple didn’t have anything like that, and yet a few years later, it owned the music ecosystem and shaped a new generation of listeners, preparing them for the next era of mobile computing.

      Looking back, the iPod made Apple look cool again. Then it became even cooler with the iPhone and the iPad. But it still took what was best with the iPod and put its soul on these new products. Apple probably learned what Sony forgot along the way after the Walkman.
      Dead iPodSo goodbye, iPod — my best friend a decade ago. Your click-wheel carried me through the best and the worst of those times of that decade. You will live on within my forthcoming iPhone 6 Plus. But if you were still working, I’d probably play Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun,” the lyrics softly flowing out of those old headphones as I lay you six feet under.

      Robert Gauna is Colorado Boulevard’s Technology Contributor. Robert is a Systems Architect with 15 years experience in several IT fields providing guidance and implementation plans for startup companies.


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