I’ve always loved music, and am old enough to have lived through every generation of portable music player, from the original cassette Walkman on. The transition from cassette to CD made little difference: you still only had one album loaded at any one time, and carrying others was a pain. The same was true of the very first mp3 player, the MPMan, which I bought in 1998.
The first hard drive-based mp3 player was the Personal Jukebox in 1999. It beat the iPod to market by two years, but was large, heavy and hard to use. Even as an early adopter of technology, I was only briefly tempted.
It was the launch of the iPod fifteen years ago yesterday that changed everything for me. That tagline of ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ said it all: you could now carry a substantial proportion of your entire music library on you at all times. And that changed the way that I – and millions of others around the world – listened to music …
The iPod was incredibly small and light for the time, and the scrollwheel meant that it was actually practical to scroll through the 100-ish albums you could store on it. Firewire meant that you could also transfer those albums onto it in a reasonable time in the first place.
Pre-iPod, I’d ripped a dozen or so of my favourite albums, and I’d rotate through those on my MPMan, perhaps once a week. It was too fiddly to do it more often than that. By the time I was on album twelve, I was ready for album one again.
With the iPod, I set about the tedious task of ripping my entire CD collection and transferring what was, at the time, most of them onto my iPod. For the first time, I wasn’t stuck with the choice of whatever album was currently stored on my player, nor did I have to decide in advance what I was in the mood for – I could choose my music on the go. That was just a joy.
In 2003, I upgraded to the 3rd-generation model, with a 30GB hard drive. That meant I could hold my entire music collection on the device. That changed the way I listened to music not just while walking, but also while driving.
Cars in those days had cassette players, and you could buy a 3.5mm headphone adapter for them: a 3.5mm jack at one end and a fake cassette at the other end. Slot the fake cassette into your car unit and you could play music from your iPod.
So then I had my entire music collection available in the car roo.
Finally, it also changed my music setup at home. I soon realised it was easier to select an album on my iPod that it was to grab and insert the CD, so I plugged my iPod into my hifi system and it became my home music player too. The CDs sat on the shelves gathering dust.
Apple Music was a second revolution in the way I listen to music, in a way that Spotify never was. Thanks to religiously training it with the Love and Dislike buttons, the For You recommendations are so good that most of the time I don’t move from that tab. Actively selecting from my own music library has become the exception rather than the norm.
These days, you have to hit the search button before Apple’s website will even admit that the iPod exists, and its 15th anniversary passed yesterday without a flicker of acknowledgement from the company (par for the course). But it was the iPod that lead to the iPhone, and it was iTunes that led to Apple Music.
Judging by eBay prices, the iPod Classic models are highly sought after these days!
Did the iPod have as big an impact on you as it did on me? Please take our poll, and share your own memories in the comments.