The same day Apple gave me and 499,999,999 other iTunes users a free U2 album, an act The Edge recently—and laughably—referred to as “incredibly subversive” and “really punk-rock,” the company quietly killed off something I actually need: the iPod Classic. You can still buy an iPod, of course, but only the iPod Touch, which has Internet access and a camera and is basically an iPhone without the phone. But the old kind with the pinwheel, the one strictly designed for the organizing and playing of music? It’s dead, folks.
That’s hardly surprising. As the world and everything in it evaporates into the Cloud, it makes no sense to keep manufacturing a device that does nothing but store things one can easily access via Wi-Fi. Most people are happy doing this. These are the people who chucked their vinyl when CDs came along, then chucked their CDs for mp3s. These are the people whose 20-gigabyte iTunes libraries sync completely with iTunes Match. They don’t need the iPod Classic because, like, who needs to carry another small thing when they’re already lugging around a small phone?
I am not most people, unfortunately. I am an obsessive, CD-hoarding, vinyl-fetishizing, digital-happy archivist. My iTunes library is pushing 2 TBs in size. I rip music at high bitrates, because I care how it sounds. I have four different versions of Bowie’s Young Americans album because, well, I never know which remaster I’ll be in the mood for at any given moment. Cramming it all into my 160-GB iPod Classic is never easy, but at least I save my iPhone storage for photos and video and its precious battery power for texting and social media. Plus, that pinwheel is so much easier to manage while driving.
Last fall, I went on a major streaming binge, listening to nothing but Spotify for months. In addition to discovering some new music, I was particularly obsessed with its radio/shuffle function. But as with anything involving an algorithm, it wasn’t long before the surprises diminished and the whole interface felt like it was just spinning me in circles. I knew things had taken a turn for the worst when my partner—a man who doesn’t know David Bowie from David Byrne—spoke up. “I miss your iPod,” he said during a road trip. “This is like listening to a machine. At least your iPod was you.”