Once upon a time the offer of 1000 songs in your pocket – the slogan for the iPod – was so enticing. But in 2014 Apple discontinued the iPod Classic. Today the zeitgeist is all the songs in your pocket, courtesy of streaming services. So what happens when you try to boot up some old tech, like a discontinued iPod? I have found it to be a lesson in interesting lesson in feeling how our expectations are set by tech companies, and appreciating less is more.
When I told friends we were planning on giving an old iPod to our daughter for her birthday, it turns out lots of them had old devices kicking around in drawers. Not in use any more, superseded by streaming services, but not yet abandoned. I think that’s because the iPod still feels quite cool. They are stuffed full of songs we were listening to ten, maybe fifteen years ago. All those sonic pleasures are still in there.
But try and boot one up again and you can quickly encounter problems. I found my computer operating system no-longer recognised the devices. Two hours on the phone to Apple support and we couldn’t find a solution – and we tried a lot of options!
In the end I toured the iPhone repair shops in Bristol to see if they had any old iPods that would work with my computer. In the end, just before closing time I found a Nano that was sufficiently recent to be recognised by my machine.
Connection made, I then had the task of getting music onto it. Anyone familiar with my writing on Analogue Skills will be unsurprised to hear I still keep my iTunes library on my computer and keep it fairly up to date. This is despite Apple’s repeated attempts to move all my music to the cloud.
It is still possible to by albums on the iTunes Store, and so having by-passed the relevant parent locks I had set up and then found myself trapped by, I was able to load the iPod with a few family favourites.
iPod as countercultural
It feels countercultural to have a music device not connected to the internet. I took the device for a test drive yesterday. This sliver of braised aluminium, a set of ear phones, hours and hours of battery and no internet connection. It felt surprisingly freeing! When most other tech seems to want to tether us, the iPod stands out for being very independent.
I also feel that we can give the gift of music to our daughter without her having to delve into the internet. An external CD drive and a few charity shop trips and you can quickly build up a really cool library.
Another countercultural idea is that our daughter will have to organise and choose her music, because 1000 songs quickly fills up. Rather than unlimited capacity and availability, a positive choice about what you do want to listen to.