I didn’t imagine that I’d be writing about the iPod in 2024 but here we are.

I got my first iPod on May 22nd, 2003. It was the Third Generation model which had been launched earlier that month. I remember it being a pretty big deal. Huge to me. My friend and I ordered our models together and I got a 15GB version, which at that time, was more than enough for my music collection.

Picture of the iPod (Third Generation)
iPod (Third Generation)

Before owning any sort of digital music player, I had a long history of always having some way to listen to music on the go. It started with a Walkman, progressed through to a Discman – I had this exact model at one point – and eventually on to a MiniDisc player. I loved my MiniDisc player and it was great tech but I unfortunately lost it in a taxi, along with some memories after a boozy night out.

The history of the iPod tells the story of how revolutionary it was, and it truly was revolutionary. Never before had it been so easy, simple and relatively affordable to carry so much music with you. My entire collection fit on that iPod and had room for more. It was amazing to be able to listen to anything I owned at any time, no matter where I was.

There was also the feeling of being a member of a secret club. Before the iPod, all headphone cables were black but the iPod’s were white and this meant that if you saw someone on the street with a white cable snaking into their pocket, you knew they had an iPod. There was often a subtle nod of acknowledgement between us as we’d pass each other by.

When the fourth generation iPod was announced in July 2004, I upgraded. This time to a 20GB version to give me more headroom as my music collection was growing quickly around then. This version had the Click Wheel which went on to be added to the iPod nano and was probably the biggest reason behind its success.

iPod Click Wheel (Fourth Generation)
iPod Click Wheel
(Fourth Generation)

Unfortunately this iPod wouldn’t be with me long as it got stolen at a party. It’s a pity it wasn’t the iPod that was plugged-in and playing the music as it would have been a big clue to it being stolen. Anyway, after that, I decided to move to the fifth generation which now had the ability to play video. The screen was tiny and the resolution was awful but it was cool to be able to have a way to watch videos on the move. This was long before YouTube and two years before the iPhone.

iPod (Fifth Generation)
iPod (Fifth Generation)

I’ve managed to hold on to that same iPod for almost twenty years and it still works. Though it’s in dire need of a new battery. A bit like myself some days.

I got a bit nostalgic for the iPod era recently so I decided to look for some of the models I once owned. Surprisingly, they’re quite easy to come by and one of the best places I found was Elite Obsolete Electronics. From them, I got a refurbished third and fourth generation along with the original radio remote control. EOE sells their refurbished models with new batteries so they work perfectly and macOS still has support for syncing iPods that came out over two decades ago.

It’s been fun to go back and play around with old tech. I’ve been thinking about trying to use the iPods to get me off my phone. That thing is surgically attached to my hands and my screen time is out of control. By moving listening to music to a dedicated device, I might just be able to resist checking Instagram every time I change the volume or pick a song to play.

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