Every year when Apple gives their keynote address, the hullabaloo is always about the new stuff. The new iPhone, the new iPad, the new operating system. If a product’s thinner, slicker, has a white apple logo on it, and is even slightly different from its last incarnation, it’s guaranteed to have the Apple fanboys – and girls – salivating.
This year, though, there was a much more depressing announcement, one that came with the sort of overly casual, deliberate quietude that makes you, the listener, do a double take and say, “Wait, sorry, what did you just say?” You know what you heard, but you hope your ears somehow misled you.
But, alas, we heard right. This year, amidst all the shiny slightly new and marginally improved gadgets that Apple is introducing, we’re saying goodbye to the iPod Classic. A moment of silence, if you please. As a longtime, perpetually happy user of the iPod Classic, I can’t help but feel sad to hear of its retirement.
Every incarnation of the iPod is geared towards a specific group of people. The iPod Touch is for those who, for whatever reason, decided that they wanted an iPhone without the ‘phone’ part. The iPod Nano is for listeners who don’t mind having to pick and choose what portions of their library they take with them. The iPod Shuffle is for the runners, especially those who can’t stand wearing an armband.
Truth be told, I own and use one of those iPod incarnations currently. I’m one of those runners who clips their Shuffle to the waistband of their running shorts when they head out for a morning run. (I also owned a first generation Touch, but that died with a pathetic, whimpering sigh after about a year and a half, and I prefer to block out the memories of the headaches that stupid, buggy thing caused me.)
But if I had to choose my favorite? You can keep your Touches, Nanos, and Shuffles. My Classic will always be number one with a bullet for me.
If each iPod is directed towards a certain group of consumers, then where does the Classic fall? That’s for the collectors, the people who keep every single album and song that they download, no matter how long ago it was. People who lug around a Classic are the type who aspire to someday have 160 gigabytes of music in their library. People like yours truly. I have bands on my Classic that I haven’t listened to in literal years. Bands like DeVotchKa, State Radio, Pinback, and Winterpills. If the mood ever strikes to listen to Autopilot Off’s Make a Sound, I know that my Classic will have it, ready and waiting for me. Maybe it never will, but just in case, my Classic has my back.
Classic users’ music tastes spread far and wide, across genres and eras. They’re the ones with guilty pleasures galore stored in that little silver or black rectangle, because they’ve got the space to spare for it. Invite someone with a Classic along for a road trip, and they’ll likely become the de facto DJ, because you know they’ll have something to please everyone.
Classic users are the people whose music libraries hold their past music lives. Take a scroll through their iPod, and you can see they went through a Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is…-centric pop-punk phase, a Porcupine Tree-heavy prog phase, or a (heaven forbid) horribly misguided Nickelback phase. They collect discographies and bootlegs by the gigabyte. They’re the audiophiles, who like having albums in Apple Lossless, with each song 1000+ kbps and over twenty megabytes. They’re the people who prefer to have their entire libraries at their fingertips, rather than floating above their heads in the cloud until they decide to beam it down to their iPhone, Scotty-style. (That’s how iCloud works, right? I wouldn’t know, seeing as how my Classic means I don’t have to rely on it.)
In so many ways, the Classic, with its clicking wheel and comparatively simple design, is the stately grandfather of the iPod line. It’s where the genius of the iPod began, and of the current lineup, it’s the one that resembles the original iPod the most. Where the other iPods have turned modernized, thin, and rainbow bright in turns, the Classic has stayed the same. Compared to the very first iPod, not much has changed. Sure, the capacity ballooned massively, the frame slimmed down a bit, and the screen became colorized, but at its core, the Classic has remained the same since its first generation, when it was simply “the iPod”.
I’ve had my Classic for nearly eight years now, and it still works as brilliantly as the day I first named it The Slayer and slid my Sennheisers into its headphone jack. The Slayer, champ that it is, has survived drops, bangs, a few accidental flings into walls, and even a quick dip or two in a swimming pool. It’s outlived three cellphones, a few pairs of headphones, and a laptop. (That sound you hear is me knocking vigorously on every wooden surface within reach.)
It was with me when I was riding on trains across India, hiking up Mount Fuji, and puzzling my way through Berlin’s metro system. It saw me through hours of waiting in queues for gigs in Manchester, Shibuya, and Columbus. When I make the trip back home to the States, my Classic bears the thirty hours of transit spent on planes, trains, and automobiles without even breaking a sweat.
It’s the iPod I hooked into the sound system of my university’s newspaper room on late nights that I was stuck editing layout. It’s gotten me through sweaty hours of yoga, and it coached me through the runs of my pre-Shuffle days. It kept me awake during the all-nighters of my undergrad, and I’m willing to bet that it’ll do the same when I start slogging through my Masters program in a few weeks. It holds playlists dedicated to love, heartbreak, and the summers of years gone past. And with eighty gigs or so of storage still free, I’m willing to bet that it keeps on chugging.
Or so I hope, at least. As a music lover, I’m quietly mourning the Classic’s retirement. But I’m sure Apple had its reasons for discontinuing the patriarch of its lineup. In an era ruled by the cloud, touch screens, and multitasking gadgets, maybe the Classic has become obsolete in the eyes of some. Maybe Apple will introduce another model down the line that has the same capacity for storage and doesn’t rely on a bunch of bells and whistles. For now, though, the collectors, audiophiles, and spontaneously elected road trip DJs will just have to hope that their Classics can tough it out.
Because a 64 GB iPod Touch just isn’t going to cut it.