September, the turn of the seasons, summer to Autumn- a return to work or education after a well earned holiday- a new start. For Apple, the ninth month in the year signals the annual refresh of their beloved iPod range. The whole product line, from the Shuffle to the Touch, gets revamped, in time for Christmas. However, this year, there was a clear omission from the line up. An omission, which has been predicted by many for the last few years, of a product in the iPod family. This product was the forefather of the iOS offspring that we all know and love; a product which, played a central role in the recovery and revival of Apple at the turn of millennium. This product is, the iPod, or the iPod Classic, as it’s come to be known in recent times.
In an age in which we are moving towards multimedia touch screen based devices, the iPod Classic with it’s iconic click wheel, looks almost analogue. It’s antiquity is further confirmed by the fact that the Classic can’t gain passage into the Appstore; Apple’s walled haven. The iPod Classic’s only saving grave, being that it boasts the biggest capacity in the family. The slow decline and demise of the iPod classic was inevitable, given the success of it’s younger touch screen enabled siblings. However, it would be foolish to get swept away by the runaway success of the iPhone and iPod Touch, since both products originated from the Classic. As such, the original iPod generations should be looked upon with a warm nostalgia. The iPod Classic, which as indicated by the name, features a classic design, with the rectangular player sporting a metallic back, and the front being dominated by a screen and click wheel. A design, that has remained largely unchanged throughout it’s six iterations.
The player was first released back in 2001, by Steve Jobs to a relatively small gathering of the press, with the simple tagline- 1000 songs in your pocket. The first generation iPod featured a 5 gigabyte hard drive, 10 hours battery life and was the size of a deck of cards. Initially, the outlook was gloomy, with media reports claiming that Apple’s new device was too expensive and the lack of PC support meant that the majority of people were excluded. However, from there the popularity grew, as the iPod matured from generation to generation. PC support was added and the iTunes online music store was unveiled, allowing users to easily purchase and download tracks onto their iPod.
Incidentally, I remember my first iPod, a 3rd generation ‘white knight’. You could hear the hard drive whir as it processed the music, and the backlit display illuminated the inky darkness when I indulged in a late night music session. There weren’t any Apps, photos, videos or the internet. My iPod focused around it’s sole purpose; playing music. It was a faithful servant; a loyal companion, and like so many others, it started my affection for Apple products. The following year when my PC gave up the ghost, I turned to the Cupertino company, and purchased my first ever MacBook. The year after, I need a new phone, and once again, Apple was my first choice, and I became a proud iPhone 3GS user. If it wasn’t for my iPod, I would probably have a Nokia and another PC.
The iPod not only brought customers to Apple, but it started a cultural movement and the ‘i’ branding, something that has become associated with Apple. In our media saturated society, the iPod provided an enclosed, private environment, in which we could consume our music. The white ear buds that came with the device became almost a badge of honour and recognition between iPod users. In terms of the company, the iPod started Apple’s line of i products, iBook, iLife, iWork, iPhone, iPad. Each of these products, were given the ‘i’ prefix due to the iPod, and each, rather fittingly, focused around delivering rich media content to the customer, for their private consumption.
While you can still buy an iPod Classic from Apple, for the time being, the only remaining nod towards the original now lies with the iPod shuffle. The smallest sibling of the iPod family, is now the only one to bare the iconic click wheel, since the Nano was recently given the touch screen treatment. Overall, it’s sad to see the end of one of the iconic symbols of the early 21st century. The iPod was the catalyst for the products that we enjoy today- the iPod Touch, the iPhone and, one could argue, indirectly, the iPad. So, like all great classics, even thought it may be long gone, it’s legacy continue to live on.