Remembering the iPod

The iPod turned 15 today.

I graduated high school in June 2000, so it's been a part of my entire adult life.

In October 2001, I was just starting my professional career in special education, working with students at the same middle school that I attended 8 years earlier. Apple and tech journalism were the furthest things from my mind. I wasn't using Apple products at the time, nor was I writing with the earnest that would follow many years later.

Back then, I was a diehard Windows user. I listened to music on CDs—in the late '90s and up until I bought the original iPhone in 2007, I spent so many hours and spent so much money at record stores like Tower and The Wherehouse. In hindsight, it's funny to think I spent so much money on CDs (and DVDs), considering how I've gone all-in on digital music. Despite its flaws, I actually enjoy Apple Music very much. The iOS 10 redesign made it much better in terms of visual accessibility, at least for my needs.

I knew of the iPod in the early years—who doesn't remember the iconic commercials?—but I never bought one, even after Apple brought iTunes to Windows. I didn't use an "iPod" until I got the first iPhone and synced everything from my Windows computer to the phone. I didn't buy a standalone iPod until 2008, when I bought an iPod Shuffle. All told, I ended up with three iPods: two Shuffles and a Nano. (One of those Shuffles was the much-derided third-generation model, which I actually liked. I preferred using the headset controls over reaching for buttons on the device itself.)

(Sidebar on my iPods: In 2007, I wanted to get an iPod, which I determined was going to be the then-new Touch. Those plans were swiftly dashed once I played with an iPhone at an AT&T store. I fell in love in two minutes, and the rest is history.)

I now understand the iPod's place in Apple's history, as well as the histories of the technology and music industries at large. But in 2001, Apple and the iPod was but a blip on my radar. I didn't grow up with the device like many of my friends did. The iPod was a revolution in its heyday, but it had no effect on me. By contrast, the iPhone was the device that brought me into the Apple universe and into the journalism career I've been building since 2013.

In 2016, the iPod lives on, but it's a product line that's clearly well past its prime. I do think the Shuffle and Touch varieties hold the most relevance, but even their niches have been eaten by the iPhone and iPad. There's just very little room nowadays for dedicated music players and almost-iPhones.

Sooner than later, Apple will likely kill the iPod brand altogether, and it'll be a sad day. But today, it's 15 years old and still kicking. Not bad for "1,000 songs in your pocket."