News item: Apple Inc.’s iPod, a groundbreaking de- vice that upended the music and electronics industries more than two decades ago, is no more. The company announced Tuesday that it would discontinue the iPod Touch, the last remnant of a product line that first went on sale in October 2001.
You never forget your first.
I was sitting on a bench outside my daughter’s ballet classroom on the third floor of the Greensboro Cultural Arts Center. My wife at the time, Leslie, came off the elevator, walked over to me and handed me a rectangular block colored like a Granny Smith apple.
“What is this?” I asked.
“It’s an Apple iPod mini. I just bought it. It holds 1,000 songs.”
It was a transformational moment, and I knew it at that instant.
Listening to music has always had a special place in my life. I owned countless Walkmans (Walkmen?) or knock-offs, from cassette-playing models to CDs. Never could I imagine a device that would hold 1,000 songs and clip to my belt. It was like having access to the world’s entire catalog of music. Nothing would ever be the same, and it hasn’t.
I can remember thumbing that wheel, that satisfying clicking noise affirming the availability of all those wonderful songs, just waiting to worm their way up the thin white wires to your ears.
The iPod begat the iTouch, the iPhone, the iPad. Its genes are in the Apple Watch and virtually every other “touch” product on the market.
I’ve owned countless iterations since over these past 20 years: a gray nano, a hot pink Nano for Loreleigh, various iPod Touches and, finally, three generations now of iPhones. I still have a few of these devices, including the hot pink Nano, in a drawer. They still work. They’re basically worthless, but their memories are priceless. The music inventory on Loreleigh’s pink Nano grew up with her, from sweet kiddie songs to pre-teen infatuations.
Think what Steve Jobs wrought on the world on Oct. 23, 2001, when the iPod was slapped on the bottom and rolled into the nursery. Digital music devices, known as MP3 players, littered the landscape. I say “littered” because they were all basically trash.
The iPod was the first to hold 1,0000 songs. At its zenith in the mid 2000s, before the iPhone, the iPod accounted for almost half of Apple’s entire revenue.
The company rolled out an online catalog from which we could buy songs, 99 cents at a time. We didn’t realize it at the time — or maybe we did — but we were signing the death warrant of recorded music on vinyl and CD.
The real-copy formats may be “bouncing back” as a trend for young kids, but don’t fool yourselves. The technology that the iPod launched has finally rendered its own self passe.
Everything — but especially music — is largely streamed. “Services” — not hardware — today makes up more than 15 percent of Apple’s revenue. We stream music, video, games, software. We walk around owning little more than a thin box of computer chips with an internet connection.
And yet, how much longer will those phones be around? Wearables are the hot-growing category. An Apple Watch and wireless headphones allow you to leave your phone at home, so long as you have good enough eyes — or powerful glasses — to read your watch face.
Maybe that’s where Apple needs to go next: bionic eyeballs so we can read all our tiny devices without squinting. I’ll take mine in Granny Smith apple green, please.
Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or email@example.com.