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In Mourning for Lost Technologies

Illustration for article titled In Mourning for Lost Technologies

Amidst the clamor over Apple's new devices, Mat Honan's personal essay on the quiet death of the iPod classic is a surprisingly affecting paean to individuality, freedom of information, and the single-use digital device as a window to one's soul.


Photo Credit: Freimut via flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For ten years my iPod—in various incarnations—was my constant companion. It went with me on road trips and backpacking through the wilderness. I ran with it. I swam with it. (In a waterproof case!) I listened to sad songs that reminded me of friends and family no longer with me. I made a playlist for my wife to listen to during the birth of our first child, and took the iPod with us to the hospital. I took one to a friend's wedding in Denmark, where they saved money on a DJ by running a four hour playlist, right from my iPod. And because the party lasted all night, they played it again.

Everyone played everything again and again.

And now it's dead. Gone from the Apple Store. Disappeared, while we were all looking at some glorified watch.

In all likelihood we're not just seeing the death of the iPod Classic, but the death of the dedicated portable music player. Now it's all phones and apps. Everything is a camera. The single-use device is gone—and with it, the very notion of cool that it once carried. The iPhone is about as subversive as a bag of potato chips, and music doesn't define anyone anymore.

Soon there will be no such thing as your music library. There will be no such thing as your music. We had it all wrong! Information doesn't want to be free, it wants to be a commodity. It wants to be packaged into apps that differ only in terms of interface and pricing models. It wants to be rented. It wants to reveal nothing too personal, because we broadcast it to Facebook and we should probably turn on a private session so our boss doesn't see that we listen to Anaconda on repeat and think we're high at work. (Point of information: Why is he on Facebook at work?)


I'm not usually on board with this brand of nostalgia ("Oh, the strawberries don't taste as they used to," etc.), but I think Honan's touched on something genuine here. Go read the rest at Wired.

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My beloved 160GB iPod classic is almost completely out of space, and only ~30GB of that is video. (Pretty much just Doctor Who and Batman:TAS to watch on my lunch break at this point.) The rest is all music/audiobooks. I'm not even one of those "Bittorrent everything in sight and never listen to it" sort of people. I just have a shitload of music, and like having my entire collection accessible on one device.

Actually, if you want to know what 111GB of music looks like, I estimate it looks pretty close to twice the photo below. When I first loaded up the sucker in 2007, I filled up almost exactly 60GB, and most of that was ripped from physical CD. Since then, almost all of my purchases have been digital, and I've added maybe another two shelves worth of physical media in the seven years that followed.

If Apple ever wanted to release a super mega-expensive 300GB device, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Otherwise, fuck buying a watch that has to be plugged in and recharged every day.