Down the rabbit hole of a decade of revolutions that changed everything. Yet somewhat forgotten.
Revolution has been a word quite effortlessly stamped on any new gadget or technology of the past 20 years. It’s a culture discourse made exhaustive by hundreds of ad campaigns that you might remember more fondly (or simply shudder at) from the 00’s. the word itself was eventually relegated to something one company taunted another with.
It is quite impossible to isolate the presence of the iPod in time. We initially perceive its temporality as the result of the changes in hardware, and thus mesh its heyday with its ‘inevitable cannibalisation’ by the iPhone.
Apologies that I have been talking in sweeping statements and continue to so. With this scale I can’t see how else to avoid them.
Regardless, I believe this comes down to the fact that every revolution in the past 20 years has always caught in the vortex of another. A good example now being the effect of social media leading into what has been termed a ‘Fourth industrial revolution’ seeing shifts towards dataifcation and surveillance capitalism of online activity.
With the iPod, this can be seen laterally in the way the ‘iPod Revolution’ brought with it the ‘Streaming Revolution’. Or at least its beginnings.
iTunes and Napster defined the new device not as storage unit, but a craft-able system that could let your curate identity via the music playlist in your pocket. Leander Kaney in a 2005 WIRED article described this as a integration between between the human and technology:
‘The iPod, for example, isn’t just an MP3 player. It’s an extension of the memory: storing the soundtrack of a lifetime, as well as names, addresses, calendars and notes’
The combined change in our in the technology and the way we used seeded Apple’s essential marketing idea: effortlessness
My first iPod was a gen 5 Nano in a Scary Spice Green, the colour of the early 2000s, that could hold a whopping 8G of music. I also only used it to watch Scooby Doo movies while my parents thought I was asleep.
Either way it feels absurd to think how quickly the idea of the single purpose device became antiquated. Or rather, that we never considered the effect that multimedia, transmedia and just being able to watch videos in your palm would be the future.
In an Atlantic article in 2019, days before the new decade and blissfully unaware of the next two years, writer Amanda Mull put forward that there is truthfully no separation of years in the events of the past two decades (pandemic aside). The “lurid blur, shaped by a media landscape” may obscure the effects of individual events, but their effects always linger into antique ideas.
It airs a daunting question: what is going to become antique next?
[Images: Following the Green iPod down the ‘rabbit hole’. Drawn by Lochlainn Heley. Used with permission]