The Death of the iPod

>The iPod was a good, kind device. It played our favorite songs on the go. It responded warmly to our touch, raising its volume and changing melodies after a brisk rub about its round belly. And if an iPod ever seized up and broke while eking out a strange whirring or clicking noise, its newer models waited around the corner like newborn puppies to recapture our hearts (or re-shuffle our music).

On this somber day, let's not bid the iPod a tearful goodbye. Granted, the iPod isn't technically dead, assuming all 240 million iPods in the wild didn't crash in the past few days. But there's good reason to dress in black and say goodbye—just like we did to its parents.

At Apple's iPad reveal in January, new features and technology lit up fans and detractors alike. But where was the music? Gone. Silent. As if somebody declared, "Mission complete." With its millions of credit-card-sized soldiers in the field, entrenched in fortified installations of iTunes, Apple appears to have called off the onslaught, basking in victory. As a result, 2010 marks the year that the iPod—and its music-specific siblings in kind—finally blends into our lives as another object to be taken for granted.

To that point, comedian Patton Oswalt recently described a fantasy of going back in time to astound his younger self. The punchline: He'd only need to travel ten years. The joke opened with a music angle, as the time-traveler targeted past-Patton's Walkman: "Take that tape cassette out. Snap it in two! That's what you'll listen to music on. It'll be that big." He then colorfully described the number of songs an iPod holds ("every song you'll ever hear") and the price ("they fucking give those away"), only to surprise his past self with an abrupt conclusion: "[The iPod is] a miracle and no one cares."

Funny, sure, but Oswalt's right. Not even a decade after the iPod debuted, we walk around with earbuds wedged into our brains as if they're a birthright. Armed with iPods, we've unwillingly entered a new era of music consumption. For proof, try buying an album for a friend as a gift. Headphones clamped onto my ears, I walked into a record store recently to pick up a copy of Teen Dream, the latest album from Baltimore indie-pop duo Beach House. The purchase was symbolic; I'd had the dreamy, beautiful record on repeat for months thanks to an early Internet leak, and with a tap of a button in my pocket, I could have listened to opening song "Zebra" while I paid for it.

The only weirder part came in deciding whether to pick up a second copy as a friend's birthday gift. I wanted to imagine a scene in which the album was torn open, looked at fondly, and thrown into a CD stereo for immediate consumption.

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Sam Machkovech is a freelance arts and tech writer based in Seattle, WA. More

Sam Machkovech is a freelance arts and tech writer based in Seattle. He began his career in high school as a nationally syndicated video games critic at the Dallas Morning News, eventually taking up the mantle of music section editor at Dallas weekly paper the Dallas Observer. His writing has since appeared in Seattle weekly The Stranger, in-flight magazine American Way, now-defunct music magazine HARP, gaming blog The Escapist, and Dallas business monthly Dallas CEO. He currently serves as a games and tech columnist for Seattle web site, as well as a volunteer tutor at the all-ages writing advocacy group 826 Seattle.

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