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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, January 30, 2023
Brian Weidy

Rest in peace iPod classic: Oct. 23, 2001—Sept. 9, 2014

When I was in fifth grade, for my birthday, my parents got me a 20 GB iPod. Amid all of the gifts I have ever received, this stands as arguably the greatest and most influential gift.

I wasted no time filling it up. I managed to fit more than 4,500 songs on the pocket sized device that never skipped, something I could not say about my trusty CD player, which got me through many a sleepless night during my first year at sleep-away camp.

Though it held “only” 4,500 songs, my musical horizons expanded immensely. Shortly after realizing the immense potential of this device, I dug through my parents extensive CD collection, putting everything from Fleetwood Mac to the exhaustive collection of the Beatles albums my parents had onto my iPod.

Soon, I found that for every time I listened to 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, I would listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. While this is not an indictment of 50 Cent or any of his contemporaries, by digging through my parents’ collection, I was able to listen to beyond what was on Z100, the local Top-40 station, and go my own way.

Eventually, I moved up to the 120 GB model, where I found my love of jam bands. Suddenly, all of the Grateful Dead’s May ‘77 tour was at my fingertips at any time. I stretched the capacity of that iPod to hold more than 15,000 songs, including a bevy of 20-minute versions of “Morning Dew” or “You Enjoy Myself.”

The purpose of this long and rambling preamble is that last week, Sept. 9, Apple discontinued the iPod classic, as it’s now known. Not to sound old, which at my age, is a virtual impossibility, but the version of the iPod I owned was simply called an “iPod.” However, I digress.

No longer can you get an iPod that just plays music. No, your iPod needs to be able to play movies, games that aren’t just Brick or that weird trivia game that features three dozen questions and little else.

While nearly everyone these days has an iPhone or some other smartphone that has the capability to play music, the fact that you can no longer buy an iPod larger than 64 GB—still a large size no doubt—is astounding. How else is one supposed to carry around all of Phish’s fall tour in 1997 while also toting around Bob Dylan’s discography and all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical soundtracks.

For few of you, this is an issue. You would probably rather play “Candy Crush” or “2048” than walk to class listening to The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), while having the ability to listen to every other volume another time at the press of a button.

Many of you probably use Spotify, a service that has helped expand the musical horizons of so many people I know the same way digging through my parents’ CD collection did for me; but collecting music, even MP3s that take up infinitely small amounts of room on your hard drive, gives each one meaning.

While for many of you, a combination of Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud gives you a multitude of musical options—beyond anything that you could possibly compile—to create a regenerating, inexhaustible library of music. What do you do when, God forbid, you are in an area without the Internet?

For those of us music junkies out there, this is like a trip to the library without headphones, a topic that will see its own column as we near finals; I’m looking at you, “Guy who has his headphones turned up to 11 with ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ blaring through his Beats headphones.”

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To me, the iPod classic represents something so much more than “1,000 songs in your pocket,” as the original iPod slogan promised. The iPod classic is the reason why I have written this column for so long. The iPod classic is the reason I picked up a guitar, why I listen to the music I do, and why I am the person I am today.

To conclude, as streaming services take over the music industry and buying an album isn’t you purchasing it on iTunes or a CD at Sam Goody—do they even still exist?—but a vinyl record, it makes some sense that Apple would stop producing the iPod classic.

To quote George Harrison’s iconic song, “all things must pass.” And in this scenario, the iPod classic is just one more piece of technology made obsolete by the rapid rate of innovation. But to those of us who stuffed tens of thousands of songs onto our iPods, that doesn’t make this any less momentous or sad.

Do you mourn the death of the iPod classic? Email Brian your condolences at weidy@wisc.edu.

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