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August 11, 2017

Opinion and engagement editor, BusinessWorld

Cover art Samantha Gonzales with select graphics from Giphy

When Apple launched the iPod—the sleek, portable music player line which was recently trimmed—I disliked it for exactly the same reasons people loved it. 

Back in 2001, when most music players were big and clunky and had more than just a wheel, the iPod looked way too cool and far too easy to use.

But then again, you could say that I was on the wrong side of history (at least at that time).  When the iPod made its debut, I was obsessed with my Sony MiniDisc (which, by the way, became extinct by 2013).

Art Samantha Gonzales with select graphics from Giphy

Smaller than a coaster but thicker than a box of matches, my Sony MiniDisc only had one edge over Apple’s favorite music player—it could record audio clips (a function future iPods would later have, thanks to iMics and voice memos).

But otherwise, the iPod reigned supreme, trumping every other audio player, including but not limited to my late but not unlamented Sony MZ-R700.

Despite these setbacks, I kept the MiniDisc faith for years.

When CSI: Las Vegas’ Gil Grissom used one to interview a suspect, I mocked the iPod infidels, belittling its arguably low‑quality 128 kbps, its default rate when compressing music.

Only Sony’s proprietary audio format offered the best listening experience, I told everyone, especially when the subject of music came up—on email lists, during parties, and conversations at work.

But later on, I surrendered.

I gave up on the tedious process of transferring music using the computer and the MiniDisc. It involved pressing the play and record buttons at the same time after linking both with a cable that was more brittle than toothpicks found in certain Chinese restaurants.

And so, in 2006, four years after I got my MiniDisc, I made the Big Switch. I bought a first‑generation, four‑gigabyte iPod Nano.

Art Samantha Gonzales with select graphics from Pixel Art Maker

It was great.

Not only did it require low maintenance, my Nano was a small and handy device that could withstand the rough and tumble of daily life. It’s been lost (and found) in a pile of dirty laundry, accidentally left inside a car parked under direct sunlight, and soaked in sweat while lodged in my gym shorts.

When it finally died six years later, I had no second thoughts about buying a new one, if only to continue living in my iPod bubble.

So far, the seventh‑generation, 16‑gig iPod Nano works like a charm, even though I admit missing the clickwheel.

Moreover, unlike its predecessor, my second iPod has lived a relatively sheltered existence.

For the past six months, it has practically lain dormant like Sleeping Beauty, rendered inactive by Spotify, my current music platform of choice.

Available on all my Apple devices—desktop, laptop, and handheld—the audio streaming service has allowed me to discover new songs, genres, and even stand‑up comedy acts I never imagined existed.

Perhaps this super modern invention is also one of the reasons why the gods of Apple decided to render the iPod (nearly) obsolete. They killed the iPod Nano and Shuffle last month (the Classic had already retired in 2014) and left only the iPod Touch behind.

Since a number of songs—obscure and otherwise—remain unavailable on Spotify’s service, I have chosen to keep my iPod within easy reach to have the best of both worlds.

That way, I know I can always press a button—any button—and enjoy the soundtrack of my life, with or without an internet connection.