iPod’s 20th Anniversary: The Rise And Fall Of The Nostalgic Device That Paved The Way For The Future Of Music Streaming

Victoria Mileson

On 23rd October 2001, the first iPod was released. Even then, 20 years ago, Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and CEO, knew it would be a global success: “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” But, it was also the start of Apple’s world domination and a global obsession with music on-the-move. Victoria Mileson reflects on the rise and fall of the iPod. 

In 2001, the music industry was rife with digital piracy. MP3 players had been on the market since the late 1990s, such as the Personal Jukebox, but they could only store one CD worth of songs, causing people to take advantage of free music platforms that didn’t rightfully pay the artist.

the iPod evolved through devices of multiple generations

2001 marked Apple’s venture into music; they had “invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go.” The iPod evolved through devices of multiple generations, designs, functions, and colours. The first was sold for $399 and originally only compatible with other Apple products, but when the company made the move towards the iTunes store, the iPod was brought into the mainstream.

Even though no longer in production, the iPod made Apple the most profitable company in history. The first iPod had a capacity of 1,000 songs — a game-changer at the time, but now impractical for our extensive demand for the luxury of choice.

The iconic click wheel, reliance on connectivity to a computer and lack of a touchscreen are not compatible with our newer fast-paced lives, yet we still feel nostalgic for the trusty iPod of the 2000s. Individual songs or albums can trigger specific memories, so it’s logical to think music itself can cause nostalgia. But what is it about how we listen to music that evokes nostalgia too?

why are we nostalgic for old tech when new features are constantly being introduced on new devices?

There’s a special quality to something that’s only purpose is to play music. There are no distractions from notifications we don’t care about, no need for Wi-Fi, and no new songs to discover. Really, iPods are so last decade. So, why are we nostalgic for old tech when new features are constantly being introduced on new devices?

Recently, there has also been a re-emergence of the vinyl. ‘It’s more authentic and you get to really hear the artist’, you’ll hear people tell you, but there’s definitely a part to be played by aesthetic too — that retro feeling that Spotify and Apple Music just can’t replace.

iPods are a time capsule of our old listening habits

We were limited to our iTunes library; we had to buy new songs and couldn’t try them on for size. However, those iPods are a time capsule of our old listening habits, they’re like a diary of what music was available to us at the time. The storage was limited, we didn’t have songs we would always skip. There were no pre-made playlists categorised by mood, it was all made by you.

The days of having a limit on deciding what to listen to are gone. We are no longer constricted by our device’s storage capacity, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for plug-in earphones and click wheels like winding cassettes from the early 2000s.

Victoria Mileson

Featured image courtesy of daisy.images via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article video courtesy of xaviertic via @youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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