Farewell to the iPod – and the age of the personal music library

Farewell, then, to the iPod, which has after all shuffled off this mortal coil. On 10 May Apple introduced that it’s discontinuing the iPod Touch, the ultimate iteration of the MP3 participant that was once introduced in 2001.  

It’s value recalling simply how modern the iPod was once. Those people raised at the Walkman would burn up each and every to be had minute on our clean cassettes: the 35-odd mins left on a TDK D90, after your home-taped replica of, say, Snoop’s Doggystyle or Blur’s Parklife may well be filled with a motley workforce of bonus tracks taped from Radio 1. But you have been nonetheless confined to 90 mins of listening. And now this little system may just are compatible – wait, what? – 1,000 songs? It was once mind-boggling.

The MP3 participant were round since 1998, and the iPod’s garage wasn’t record-breaking: Creative’s Nomad Jukebox, launched in 2000, may just cling round 2,000 tracks. But Apple’s design and advertising and marketing genius intended their product straight away overshadowed its competition. The vintage iPod was once – is, for I will nonetheless cling my black seventh-generation style lovingly in my hand – a tactile surprise. Perfectly palm-sized, it had an interface through which fiddly buttons have been banished in favour of the delightfully intuitive click-wheel. The thumb, which now figures so closely in our swipe-driven tech global, right here turned into a key participant, brushing back and forth with a purpose to turn during the proud proprietor’s tune library (a gesture captured with nostalgic reverence in Edgar Wright’s 2017 movie Baby Driver, as its younger protagonist cues up every other monitor on considered one of his many iPods). 

To have that library on your pocket was once a remarkably liberating feeling. The selection of what to hear at the travel was once staggering – will you stick to start with click on with Abba Gold or Abbey Road, or will you spin on during the alphabet to Survivor (Destiny’s Child) and Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane), or past?  

Crucially, the tune was once yours – made up of albums you owned, whether or not you’d spent many evenings patiently “ripping” your CD assortment on your iTunes (it was once fortunate I already had a female friend through my early twenties another way I may have struggled to seek out one) or spent your disposable source of revenue within the countless aisles of Apple’s virtual tune retailer. Of route, there have been the unlawful downloaders, too – peer-to-peer file-sharing persevered lengthy after Napster was once close down in July 2001. But I believe the tune enthusiasts who dumped monumental amounts of subject material onto their iPod without spending a dime in the long run regretted it – caught in an unending scroll of all of the Bob Dylan and Jay-Z again catalogues, they overlooked what they if truth be told favored.  

Which is, after all, the place we discover ourselves these days: a virtual panorama ruled through Spotify and different streaming platforms, through which tune isn’t precisely unfastened, however now not owned both. Instead of a set that has been expanded and cultivated over years, we now have a bottomless pool of recorded tune. You can “like” an album and “follow” the artist, however the transaction is so low-stakes that it feels meaningless, and your “library” isn’t in reality yours in any respect.  

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The iPod was once additionally a Pandora’s Box: in live performance with iTunes, it performed a an important function in “unbundling” albums, a procedure that many artist (reminiscent of Radiohead) hated as they felt their masterworks have been being stripped for portions – a way simplest showed through the randomising “shuffle” characteristic. But it now looks like a logo of more practical instances: with a system designed simplest to play tune, we weren’t additionally checking Twitter, half-reading a viral lengthy learn and WhatsApping our mums.

The smartphone gives get right of entry to to noticeably greater than 1,000 songs however it is usually a shockingly robust zone of distraction, nudging you clear of concentrated listening. And you realize what? Joni Mitchell isn’t on Spotify. But she is the place she will have to be: on my list cabinets, and at the whirring hard-drive of my trusty iPod. 

Tom Gatti is the editor of Long Players: Writers at the Albums That Shaped Them

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