Apple iPod ceases production: How can this be? With 21,538 songs, iPod, therefore I am – Aidan Smith

Stop me if you think I’m getting too melodramatic about the death of the iPod: a crash on a lonely road, the emergency services have managed to cut me free but too late, it seems, and the paramedic, while searching for the possibility of a kidney donor card, finds the jukebox in my pocket, one of 450 million sold, brilliant engineering, gorgeous design.

“Wow,” she says, “this guy had incredible taste in music. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more eclectic collection or more artfully curated playlists. His iPod should be saved for the nation and installed in a museum so that everyone can enjoy the song choices of a true aesthete.”

Then her boss says: “Why don’t you stick the headphones in his ears, those iconic white tendrils that snaked right round the world at the century’s dawn, and spin the iPod’s wheel – one of mankind’s greatest inventions next to the actual wheel?”

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The paramedic presses the little “play” arrow and I start to twitch back to life. The next few days are a blur of chat-show appearances, publishers fighting over the book rights for this “miracle” and Netflix throwing big mini-series dosh at me, before Apple announce: “We’re sorry, we totally misjudged here. The iPod will not be discontinued after all…”

The late Apple guru Steve Jobs with his iPhone, a jukebox in the pocket (Picture: Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock)

Okay, this is unlikely to happen. And the glam-rockers, hip-hoppers, proggers, punks, sensitive singer-songwriters, jazzers, folkies, French dance acts and not forgetting the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, all of whom have contributed to the 21,538 selections amassed in the tiny Tardis of tunes I’ve carried with me everywhere, will not be squabbling over which was the song which “saved” me. But, still I mourn.

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Sounding off about the iPod generation

Possibly still in exaggeration mode, the news that the iPod has ceased production reminds me of the moment when it became apparent there would be no more Moon missions.

When the iPod arrived in 2001, the infinite possibilities of the solar system were suddenly matched by being able to house one’s entire album collection in a device measuring 10cm by 6cm.

“To build the case,” remarked Apple’s guru Steve Jobs, “we’ve pushed the outer limits of what can be done with metal.” Well, no more than those limits were pushed in construction of the Apollo rockets, Steve. And the iPod, in looks, seemed like our first freely-available whizzo space-age gadget, beating jet-packs and pill-form food which, no pressure, have yet to arrive.

Now, no one is taking my iPod away from me; it is not having to be surrendered like a rifle in a Wild West amnesty. I will still be able to listen to my music through its wonderful workings, but only for so long.

One day it will fail and this is already causing me anxiety. I’ve doubled up on protective socks and may soon have to stop taking it out of the house, lest I fall victim to street-urchin pickpockets stealing iPods to order for people bored with Mumford & Sons, a Young Conservatives focus group’s idea of what a band should look and sound like.

Or U2. Remember when a just-released album of theirs appeared on iPods unrequested? Apple could strike whatever deals they wanted with whichever bands, but that was intrusion. I compile the soundtrack to my life, thank you very much.

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Not taking the iPod out of the house would, of course, defeat some of its purpose. Remember when, in order to listen to music on holiday, your suitcase would be weighed down with CDs, a portable player and mini-speakers? What a leap the iPod made from there.

And from further back: eight-track cartridges; cassette recordings of the Top Twenty, microphone jammed up against the radio; and the gargantuan hi-fi my father built for himself out of chipboard, a box for each of the five components, running almost the length of the sitting-room wall.

The first iPods were white, in keeping with many sci-fi visions of the future. Most recently they’ve been black, like a Mickey Rourke sex toy from 9½ Weeks. Mine is silver, solid enough to stop an assassin’s bullet, which is the theme of another nightmare being endured right now, and it would be the very next thing I’d rescue from a fire after the family and the dog.

Maybe I should have hated the iPod given how it’s dismantled the traditional LP, allowing the purchase of individual tracks, but I grew up communing cross-legged with concept albums and so strike me down if I was ever to commit such a sacrilegious act.

Perhaps I love my iPod too much; my wife would say this. “What are you doing?” she’ll ask. “Oh nothing dear, just correcting Apple’s misspellings of song titles.” Next night: “So what are you doing now?” “Oh nothing dear, just downloading cover art, only some of the sleeves are wrong so I’m trying to find the ‘undownload’ button…” “You’re a musical snob, you know.” “And your point is…?”

Is it a boy thing, obsessing about music to this extent? Is it a man thing, a size thing, to declare the whopping great number of songs in one’s personal library?

Of course there are some I’ve never played. There are bands’ whose entire collected works have been ignored by the “shuffle” function, fuelling suspicions of a U2-type conspiracy of favouritism for “approved” acts. Lieutenant Pigeon, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dr Strangely Strange – I will not rest until you’re heard!

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Young folks tell me the iPod has been usurped by the iPhone and similar for listening to music, but I seriously doubt there would be room on any smartphone for 21,538 songs (did I tell you I had that many?). No, iPod, therefore I am.



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