I tick almost all the boxes for what is globally, often derisively, called an “Apple fan boy” – the devices that love my bedroom all come with that brand of half-bitten temptation fruit that evokes pride and which is instantly recognizable from Delhi to Denver and everywhere in between (and a few hundred miles on the ISS too, I bet).
However, nothing beats the pride and preciousness of that moment so far away when I received my very first Apple product. An ipod.
They were different times. In the 2000s, as the world opened up after the end of the Cold War, WTO agreements led to a “global village” effect and the Internet gave everyone the world at their fingertips, it disrupted the conventional and controlled environment of the music industry. New technologies such as MP3 meant that songs could be copied and shared across the world via computers at the touch of a button. File-sharing upstarts like Napster shook the industry to its roots (even earning it a Time cover), and although record companies with the help of law enforcement have succeeded to shut down Napster, the impact was long-lasting. The proliferation of the Internet also meant that various tastes were multiplying and making their presence felt. Young content no longer had to be told what to listen to by radio stations, record labels and MTV – trends were now set online, in clubs, by DJs and on file sharing sites peer-to-peer music (and later, via social networks). media).
Steve Jobs’ iPod was then a bit like the knight in shining armour, bringing order to this chaotic world. Yes, there were portable MP3 players before it, but the iPod, with its sleek, shiny frame, easy-to-use functionality and rotating interface was music to the ears (literally!) for aficionados. While the first-generation iPod came out in the shadow of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it got more talked about than brought in, due to its high price tag.
A bit of a price change, the quick realization that the iPod, with the iTunes music library where you can legally buy digital music, was the only opportunity for the industry and artists to regain control (and the right to ‘author) digital hackers, meant there was no turning back. iPod sales soared, with the kind of enthusiasm at Apple’s flagship stores that were to be a mainstay in later years, thanks to the iPhone. A decision in the mid-2000s to provide a Windows-compatible version of iTunes (Jobs had to admit that the vast majority of people were still using Windows rather than the Apple Mac) also helped make the iPod revolution much more massive.
The brilliance of the ipod was in its simplicity. And the fact that music, always something that evokes passion, was involved. The Sony Walkman may have been a revolutionary precursor to musical mobility, but for all its cool quotient in the 1980s when it was first released, there was still a limit to what you could listen to – the cassette tape with its 10 – 20 songs you load onto it, plus maybe any tapes (and later CDs) you can physically carry.
The iPod has made it limitless. As Jobs ably demonstrated at the launch event, it could be thousands of songs, all possible to cleverly organize into playlists of your choosing. Want a new song? Simple – connect it to your computer’s iTunes and buy one for just 12 or 15 rupees (99 cents internationally)! It’s no wonder then that some 45 million iPods have been sold over the past two decades, until this week when Apple finally decided to discontinue it.
One of those 45 crores was a special edition glossy black U2 iPod that I received, courtesy of this benevolent friend from Dubai. On his first visit home after landing a job in the dreamy desert town, Prat made a dream come true for me. “I know how much you love U2 songs like ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and how much you love the music. Then I’m sure you’ll like it, he said enthusiastically.
He may have missed how fascinated I was with the creations of Steve Jobs as well. Even for a music aficionado who, growing up, had seen the gamut from LPs to cassettes to CDs, the iPod felt like it was in a whole different league. I could listen to the music I wanted, when I wanted – all I had to do was plug in my headphones. Or, as I increasingly tended to do, plug the device into the speakers of my music system (whose cassette decks and CD players quickly became lifeless jobless).
The iPod’s position in the history books is perhaps more of a harbinger of the iPhone and the mobile revolution that followed. Yet, for me and many other music enthusiasts, it remains liberating to an unthinkable degree – until it becomes a reality. Finally, there was a soundtrack in our lives, while we were jogging, taking a train or somewhere waiting for something or someone. The iPod may be RIP, but this is not the day the music died. He lives, with the memories.