Remembering the iPod

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.

YouTube video. Green Day’s Music video for American Idiot.

YouTube Video. U2’s music video for Vertigo

When the iPod first came into a then world of single purpose gadgets, the same narrative of MORE POWER and Revolution was spun, and the world ate it up. Only, it truthfully did change things – best put by Will Smith, the iPod was ‘the gadget of the century’. *For a solid 6-years.

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.

YouTube video. Jessie J’s music video for Price Tag.
YouTube video. Britney Spear’s musc video for Oops I did it Again

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.

YouTube video. Flo Rida’s music video for Right Round

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.

YouTube video. Rihanna’s music video for Umbrella.
YouTube video. Natasha Bedingfeild’s music video for Unwritten

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

YouTube video. Live performance by Elvis of I can’t help Falling in Love.
YouTube video. Sara Barelilles’s music video for Love Song.

And unsurprisingly that direction was invigorating for a generation of users still new to the ideas of digital literacy. On a personal level, recognising my own ingrained biases, it gave Apple the upper hand in emotional investment.

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.

YouTube Video. Disk recording of Moon Sister’s Earth, Wind, Fire & Air

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.

YouTube video. Busted’s music video fro Year 3000

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.

YouTube video. Music video for Aqua’s Barbie Girl

It airs a daunting question: what is going to become antique next?

YouTube video. Music video for Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi.

[Images: Following the Green iPod down the ‘rabbit hole’. Drawn by Lochlainn Heley. Used with permission]

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