Death of an iPod

Three years ago when I bought my first iPod, the message printed across the screen-protecting film simply read “enjoy”. Now, on iPod number two, the message reads “don’t steal music”. It is, I suppose, a sign of the times.

Regular readers may remember me writing about the new iPod, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle back in September. In this, I wrote about how the updated range was a little uninspired and offered no compelling reasons to upgrade from a 3G iPod that was in perfect working order. Naturally, almost exactly one month after writing that, my iPod began coughing its way into oblivion.

I can’t really blame Apple. I bought a Shuffle a year or so ago to use in the gym, because I thought that taking my 3G iPod in was just going to lead to me dropping it, and breaking it. Then, because I wanted to listen to whole albums instead of singles, I started taking my 3G iPod in with me and eventually I dropped it, and broke it.

It didn’t die straight away, but instead limped on for the next two months, forgetting songs and blanking out. My computer turned its back on it, refusing to have anything more to do with it, and eventually, quietly and with the minimum of fuss, my iPod passed on.

Mourn with me.

I was quite attached to my iPod, having coveted one ever since they first came out in 2001. I couldn’t have one back then — to start with, you needed to buy a Mac as the original iPod wasn’t PC-compatible. Time passed and that was rectified, but there was still no way I, a starving student, was going to be able to afford the £300 or so for one. I went for a while with a Creative Zen, but…you know, I’d use the Zen, but I’d be thinking of the iPod.

In 2003, when the 3G ipod was released and the idea of me spending £300 on a portable music player was still as far from reach as ever, I came up with a plan: that December, when asked what I wanted for my birthday (on the 21st of December in case you’re interested) and for Christmas, I simply asked friends and family to contribute to an iPod fund, and contribute they did. With the proceeds, and after flogging the brick-like Zen on ebay, I had the money, and the iPod was duly ordered.

So there’s a certain sentimental value to my now-dead iPod. This was three years ago, slightly before the rabble started buying them from Tesco and so they still had a certain style about them; buying an iPod felt like I was doing something quite special. I tracked my order online excitedly — it’s in China! It’s in Belgium! Oh no, it’s in Cork; too far, iPod, too far! — and it arrived in a large, Fabergé Egg-style unfolding box complete with power adaptor, wired remote, Firewire cable, hard case, headphones (plus several sponge ear pads) and the dock. It was a very complete package.

Fast-forward to now, and the whole experience is a lot less exciting. Financially, I’m a lot better off than I was three years ago so there was no need to muster support from friends and family, plus the price of the current iPod — 5G to its friends — is significantly cheaper; £170 or so from Amazon. So I ordered it, and it arrived the next day. Gone is the sophisticated packaging and most of the accessories: included now in the much-slimmer box is just a USB cable, a flimsy sleeve as a token gesture against scratches and the standard — and rubbish — white headphones.

In three years, the act of buying an iPod has become as humdrum as buying a new pair of socks. It’s still a great piece of kit, certainly, and well deserves its ubiquity. It’s just…not special any more.