Of all of the transportable music gamers Apple has launched over the previous 20 years, the unique iPod shuffle stays my favourite. It wasn’t my first iPod, and 16 years after its debut I’ve owned numerous iterations of the iPhone, however I beloved the shuffle for its fundamental design and performance, not regardless of them.
The iPod additionally wasn’t the primary transportable media participant I owned, however when it debuted in 2001 with the promise of placing 1,000 songs in your pocket, it wasn’t a tough promote. On the time, transportable MP3 gamers had been laughably restricted because of the price of flash reminiscence, able to storing extra tracks than a CD may (barely), however at decrease high quality. CD gamers that might play MP3 information burned to a CD-ROM had been a greater possibility, however even they maxed out at round 150 tracks, and relied on a medium that was nonetheless comparatively fragile. With the iPod I wasn’t restricted to simply holding just a few of my favourite Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers tracks, I may carry their total discographies.
Nevertheless, each the first-generation iPod with the bodily scroll wheel and its touchscreen successor had been, disappointingly, restricted to computer systems working macOS. On the time I used to be on a PC. I needed to wait till what’s now generally known as the iPod (Dock Connector) was launched in 2003, which additionally arrived with the Home windows model of iTunes that allowed an iPod to be synced to a PC with out leaping by way of hoops. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the native Home windows model of iTunes made syncing simpler, as a result of iTunes has all the time been an terrible, bloated, resource-sucking piece of software program—much more so on the PC. It was the antithesis of user-friendly, and why Apple was by no means in a position or keen to repair it stays a thriller to me. However I digress.
The web within the early aughts was the wild west of file-sharing. Discovering MP3 copies of just about any music was trivial. Filling an iPod together with your total music assortment was straightforward. Leaping between albums didn’t require swapping plastic discs. The iPod was genuinely life-changing.
What was much less endearing in regards to the iPod was that it was heavy—at the moment there was a bodily spinning arduous drive inside it—and it was fragile. To say I’m somebody who infants their devices is an understatement. There was no scarcity of how to guard the iPod, however mine nonetheless ended up amassing nicks and scratches regardless of my greatest efforts, notably on the display’s plastic cowl. I couldn’t not see them once I appeared down on the system, and I keep in mind shopping for and recurrently utilizing a display sharpening package, with totally different abrasive lotions you’d buff on and off, one after the opposite, to make my iPod’s display shine once more. (Nowadays I gained’t even take a brand new iPhone out of the field until I’ve obtained a display protector prepared to use.)
Financially, I wasn’t in a spot to repeatedly improve to the most recent iPod fashions both. They by no means actually dropped in value because of added options like the colour display on the iPod Picture (which may solely be used to take a look at images, not take them). Apparently I wasn’t the one iPod fan on a funds. Throughout Apple’s keynote tackle on the Macworld expo in San Francisco in January of 2005, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod shuffle. Beginning at $99, it was the most cost effective model of the iPod but.
It lacked a display and will solely maintain about 120 songs (until you sprang for the $149 model with double the reminiscence) however I used to be instantly enamored with the iPod shuffle and ordered one straight away for 2 very particular causes. The primary was that its extremely easy design additionally meant it was the primary iPod that was almost indestructible. Dropping it on the bottom, which I did many instances, solely left it with tiny nicks and scratches that had been all however invisible on its shiny white plastic housing. However extra importantly, an unintentional drop additionally didn’t destroy a fragile arduous drive and wipe out a thousand songs as a result of the iPod shuffle used sturdy flash reminiscence as a substitute. The system did precisely what my bigger iPod did, however with none of the stresses of worrying about what may occur to my expensive funding once I left my condo with it in hand.
The opposite cause I instantly embraced the iPod shuffle was the identical cause Apple created it within the first place. Carrying a whole lot of songs on a single system not solely meant you weren’t swapping tapes or discs, it additionally meant you can randomly leap by way of tracks in an enormous assortment, as a substitute of simply sticking together with your favorites. The iPod’s shuffle function grew to become a good way to find new music you already owned, like a radio station freed from adverts and DJ banter. With the iPod shuffle, I used to be capable of take that concept one step additional. As a substitute of letting iTunes randomly fill it with tracks, I’d add 120 of my favorites in order that once I caught my headphones in it was like I used to be tuning right into a radio station that catered to my precise tastes in music. It was all killer, no filler, as outlined by me. We now take such performance with no consideration, as a result of algorithms permit streaming providers like Spotify to make tailor-made suggestions based mostly on what we most frequently hearken to, however in 2005 the comparatively dumb iPod shuffle gave me the same expertise.
Even the shortage of display was a welcome function as a result of I by no means knew what music was coming subsequent, and as a rule it appeared just like the iPod shuffle knew precisely what I needed to listen to, making me marvel if there was extra happening behind the scenes. In Steven Levy’s ‘Requiem for a Shuffle’ that appeared in Wired again in 2017, he talked about having introduced up the query of the shuffle function’s randomness to Steve Jobs himself, who not solely insisted it really was random, however went as far as to place Levy in contact with an Apple engineer who additionally vowed it wasn’t intentionally serving up particular tracks. Regardless of Apple’s claims, many people had been satisfied the shuffle function was secretly studying our likes and dislikes, even when deep down we knew such capabilities didn’t exist but.
The unique iPod shuffle, which appeared like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum, was ultimately changed by a smaller model that lacked a built-in USB port (all of them got here with cost and sync docks from that time on), which was adopted by a model that appeared like a tie tack with none buttons of its personal (customers relied on the inline distant on their headphones), after which lastly a model that returned to the design of the second-generation iPod shuffle however as small as Apple may presumably make it. That final model debuted in 2010, 5 years after the unique iPod shuffle arrived, and caught round till 2017, when Apple lastly killed off the iPod shuffle and nano strains altogether.
Why Apple despatched the iPod shuffle packing isn’t a very arduous query to reply. Just like the iPod normally, and numerous different transportable gadgets, the iPod shuffle fell sufferer to the iPhone. As a lot as I beloved the iPod shuffle, not even I may justify carrying it round when there was all the time an iPhone in my pocket. I ultimately handed it on to my father, my polar reverse when it got here to babying electronics. His capacity to destroy cellular gadgets in report time is unparalleled, however he loved the iPod shuffle for a number of years after I handed it over, having fun with Christmas carols, classical music, and John Williams’ soundtracks on his every day bike journey. It nonetheless stays in his iPod assortment in the present day, and whereas it’s lengthy misplaced its capacity to carry a cost, the truth that it survived his full and utter lack of TLC is but one more reason why I nonetheless assume the shuffle was the perfect iPod Apple ever made.