My iPod and I
By Steve Hill Progression art director
I hold in the palm of my hand my 10 year old 160 GB iPod Classic.
When Steve Jobs unveiled its baby brother on Oct. 23, 2001 he introduced this thin device that could put your entire music collection at your fingertips. I figured the compressed music files played through tinny ear buds would sound less than stellar, and I was right.
But I bought it anyway, and every generation thereafter. I was seduced by its ease of use and affordability. Like many others, I signed up for the Apple devil’s bargain—compromising on sound quality for convenience’s sake, dutifully queuing up for new versions promising better sound, improved convenience.
It definitely was light years beyond the pioneering days of portable playbacks. Sony introduced the Walkman cassette player in 1979. Finally, we could sweat to our own music at the gym and block out the disco tunes blaring over the PA. We could remain blissfully immersed while strolling down the street or sitting on a bus: personal music now literally providing the soundtrack to daily life. But cassettes were clumsy and short lived. The Sony Discman, unveiled in 1984, improved sound quality but brought the problem of lugging along multiple discs. The iPod saved us from that baggage and became the norm at the start of this millennium.
And I’ve become quite lazy along the way. A goodly amount of my music is first explored via Macintosh computer, acquired through iTunes then uploaded to my iPod.
When I can’t sleep at night I grab one of my iPods and listen through a good set of headphones. When put on shuffle, I’m amazed at the way it seamlessly connects one song to the next, one genre to another: Hundreds of years of creative artistry easily surfed with the push of a finger. I become impatient, taking in the first few bars of a song before impulsively seeking the next shot of aural gratification—a quick “click,” on to another tune.
Yes, I still have my expensive stereo audiophile system and walls of CDs. But that means I must turn everything on, fetch a disc from its jewel case, insert it and press play. I reserve that “effort” and listening experience for special occasions.
I even have bought better high-end portable music players from HifiMan and Astell & Kern, but find their user interfaces clumsy; plus, the units are heavy and and give off heat. Ultimately, I always return to my trusty iPod.
Alas, the iPod Classic no longer is available. Apple phased it out in favor of that all-in-one device, the iPhone, which offers even greater convenience. I have not joined the ranks of smartphone users. I’m that guy dodging young ADD smartphone multi-taskers on the sidewalk as they listen to music, chat and text while sipping Starbucks venti mochachino lattes.