You’ve been senselessly executed by your creators—a gruesome fate along the lines of Blade Runner and Terminator 2: Judgement Day—or, to a lesser extent, Planet of the Apes. From your humble beginnings in 2001 to your untimely death in 2014, you were in the loving hands of hundreds of millions (around 400 million total, actually) of people on earth—and now the all-too-familiar tap of your click wheel has been forever silenced.
You're gone, but you'll never be forgotten.
Everyone remembers their first iPod. I certainly can recall the moment freshman year of college when I closed my fingers around your cold, white, rectangular shell and stood—wonderstruck—from the sheer amount of music you could store. Before I relented to Apple’s powers, I was vehemently anti-iPod. I was a diehard CD-player carrier and would travel all over the country with a backpack full of CDs and my red CD player.
Whenever I bought a new one, I’d meticulously rearrange every compact disc in my collection and do so with great caution to accommodate my obsessive need for alphabetical order. The first MP3 player I bought was not an iPod, but the Creative NOMAD. At 20 gigabytes, and about the size of a small book, it was completely obliterated when I lightly dropped it upon my carpeted floor.
Next was the Microsoft Zune—which put up a hell of a fight until I accidentally dunked it into a glass of Diet Coke during a week-long road trip from California to Connecticut. The conscious decision to finally bring you into my life came months later, when my father assured me that it was impossible to play videos on such a small device without an external storage unit. I assured him he was wrong (since I had seen you hanging out with my friends), and made him come to Best Buy with me to show him. We watched a U2 video on your tiny screen, and at that point, I was done, gone. You had my heart. I left that Best Buy with 60 gigabytes of pure auditory thirst in my pocket.
I spent weeks—literally weeks—uploading my collection of CDs onto my computer and into iTunes. I stayed up all night in my dorm trying to find the correct album art and manically making sure every song was labeled correctly. The joy of being able to make mixes on my computer from virtually any song on earth was beyond anything I had ever thought was possible, given I’m a product of the 1980s. I lovingly recall seeing “Winter Punk Mix 2007” pop up on your little screen and listening to it on repeat from Boston to Connecticut.
You changed the way people listened to music—in the sense that millions of people had an easy, accessible, unobtrusive way to hear their favorite bands without carrying pounds of compact disks or fearing the loss of audio quality. You were an audiophile’s wet dream and a regular person’s dry fantasy. Through your plethora of different versions and forms, you remained the go-to MP3 player for the average person and allowed us to zone out on buses, trains, airplanes, subways, and city blocks with comfort.
You were a reason to stay connected in the musical community and a damn good excuse for us to not talk to people when we were feeling particularly anti-social. Then, when the iPhone came out in 2007, it all changed. Suddenly, we could download music on the go and listen to it instantly. It was a literal sound cloud that cast a metaphorical shadow on America’s favorite music player.
The world simply didn’t need two music players and you were sabotaged—murdered?—by your older brother. You never gave up hope, holding on to life like a terminal patient with a lengthy bucket list. You (metaphorically) hiked the Grand Canyon, played with the Harlem Globetrotters, and went to Disneyland. In 2014, you quietly let go, like Jack from Titanic, and left us all with an iPod-shaped hole in our hearts.
So, where does that leave us now? With America’s nostalgia bloodlust, you’ve skyrocketed in price on Craigslist and Ebay. I’ll admit—a week ago I tried to pawn you off on a poor college student for $300, but had forgotten that I previously destroyed your hard drive after a drunken run-in with floor this past summer. Maybe it was fate telling me I should never let go.
I understand why your life came to an end—snubbed in a world that values new music over reliability and convenience. You were a product of the time and the times are a-changin’. We’ll always remember you and, for the ones who still have you in working condition, we’ll play you until your last circuit shorts out. You were more than a music player—you were a monument, a symbol, a sign that technology had advanced. I bid you adieu.