Apple finally killed off the original, click wheel, hard drive iPod this week. A lot of people barely noticed, because we were too busy gawking at a watch that isn't really a watch. However, for a generation of music-lovers, the iPod was the consumer electronics product of the last decade. It brought Apple back from the dead, birthed a whole new family of iDevices, and literally changed the way we interact with music. In some ways for worse, in some ways for the better.
Mat Honan at Wired has put together a fitting eulogy for the iPod that made me remember just how exciting a prospect it was to have your entire music library in your pocket. And a huge part of that reason wasn't the technology — it's because so many of us used to define ourselves through our music —first through the record and CD collections we lovingly spent our hard-earned money on, then through what you loaded onto your iPod, whether that music was "stolen" or not:
Looking at someone’s iPod was like looking into their soul. In their music you could see who they were. You could tell if they were sophisticated or rough. You could see in their playlists the moments they fell in love and the moments they fell back out again.But now, the iPod is a relic of the past, and everything has changed. The notion of a music collection has been obliterated by the fact that we can stream nearly any song ever recorded and released, for free, instantly. Spotify and its ilk have fundamentally changed the way we interact with music again. In some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse:
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.Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go back to syncing my music with iTunes over a USB cable and being annoyed if I forgot to load up the new album I've been loving. It's great to be able to access anything I want, whenever I want. But I can't help but miss the days when I laboriously curated my MP3 collection, taking nearly as much delight in a well-organized collection of MP3s as our parents might have taken with a shelf full of vinyl records.
I miss the time when we were still defined by our music. When our music was still our music. I miss being younger, with a head full subversive ideas; white cables snaking down my neck, stolen songs in my pocket. There will never be an app for that.Even though it's a relic, I'm not getting rid of my iPod — it's a great reminder of how I grew up at the dawn of the 21st century and all the weird freedoms that came along with it.