The iPod went to entertainment heaven and few people will mourn it, not because it was never loved, but because most people thought it was already dead.
Tech collectors, parents who considered it a pre-phone option for kids, and indeed anyone who’s drawn to the idea of an iPhone without actual phone service — wait, that sounds amazing — have been busy exhausting the last stocks.
But in fact, the iPod touch, the last remaining model, was abandoned, abandoned, killed off in favor of more expensive products. Apple has no mercy like that.
His announcement inevitably sparked a wave of superficial memories for the original iPod’s arrival on the scene while the internet was still firmly in its “what’s this all about?” period; an awkward middle phase of remote access frustrations, video buffering and, worst of all, blogging. We now call it Web 1.0 and it’s really no wonder the music industry has missed its potential.
Looking back over 20 years – the iPod was introduced by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in October 2001 – it’s striking how limited Tony Fadell’s invention seems.
Like the Dansette record player and Sony Walkman before it, it was the latest pinnacle of portability, yes, but its benefits were all presented in old-century parlance. A sterile-looking device “about the size of a deck of cards”, as Jobs put it, the first iPod could store 1,000 songs, that number being presented as infinite in the context of most music collections. people ; Jobs, like iTunes, used the word “library”.
I was shown an iPod in early 2002 and just remember being confused. I easily owned over 1,000 songs, if the album track skip button specials and CD single B-side afterthoughts were included, but when would I ever need them all with me? Most of the time I listened to Zero 7’s Destiny on repeat anyway.
The first iPods did not have a direct Internet connection. The music files were transferred there via a cable from your computer. Incredible, isn’t it? Today, if a house party host played music on their portable version of iTunes, it would seem strange. In 2002, it was the business of early adopters.
It was a time when having and building a music collection was commonplace, a time when “the size of a deck of cards” must have sounded like a brilliant analogy. It was a time when the hype for Apple product launch events had yet to be refined.
But although the iPod played a significant role in accelerating the physical music sales slump that was underway at this point, it turned out to be an in-between technology – a good decade (at best) and one for luck. This 2000s icon bridged a gap between the 1990s list of CD Walkman, Sony MiniDisc and early MP3 players to its own eventual successor, the iPhone.
Jobs’ most revolutionary device incorporated the functions of the iPod, eliminating the need to carry a second deck of cards. The whole practice of buying and downloading songs from iTunes was next to die, faltering with the advent of audio streaming subscriptions. Music ownership is now a niche business. It’s a novelty grilled by promotions such as Record Store Day, not a buying habit instilled in childhood and ingrained with the help of teenage pay packets.
I might get nostalgic (again) for what music culture has lost and salute what it’s gained as a result, but it’s that 20-year span for the now-defunct iPod, with less than half of that in the sun, which seems more relevant here.
What’s the equivalent of the iPod in the early 2020s? Which of our current enthusiasms will seem particularly mundane in 2042 – not a false dawn, exactly, but a gateway to more global change? What are we excited about now that Generation Alpha will deal with native complacency?
There are obvious guesses. Every form of screen technology seems to be in the throes of evolution, to begin with, even if we always say that. Whether the change is meaningful is another matter altogether. The smart home is trapped in a stop-start limbo in which the long-promised prospect of the automatically controlled connected refrigerator has yet to make its debut in your best friend’s kitchen. Wearable technology, too, is clearly just getting warmer.
A minority of people use an Apple Watch as a de facto iPhone, at least occasionally, but it seems more likely that Watch functions will be available through the next Apple Glasses (not the official name) and the Watch, rather than replacing the Iphone. , will itself be replaced.
Certainly the merging of our offline and online environments through augmented and virtual reality applications is probably still in its infancy, both at home and away, and is about to redefine a again our conceptions of the media.
Meta is betting the Facebook farm on transforming the Metaverse from its meager and ignorable existence today into a pervasive technology that is inescapable in our work and social lives. But while its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg planted a virtual flag by renaming Facebook to Meta, Apple also has its sights set on the metaverse, with boss Tim Cook saying in January that the company sees “a lot of potential in this space” and is “invest accordingly”.
When Linden Labs, creator of the Second Life virtual world, was beta testing its metaverse alternate reality 20 years ago, it probably thought the future would arrive sooner rather than later. But, with all due respect, Linden Labs was not Apple.
The second largest company in the world at the time of writing has notably shown the kind of maturity that others can only envy by stepping away from ownership of social media platforms altogether. He doesn’t need it. He has the hardware, he has the ecosystem.
He also has a knack for naming things, the iPod being a prime example. The metaverse, on the other hand, has the din worthy of an “information superhighway.” If Apple renames it in the process of its next attempt at world domination, that alone will be a valuable contribution.