30 for 30: iPods

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

13. IPODS

The "photo" iPod

Like everyone else, I got an iPod. It changed the way I listened to music.

I was planning this blog for later in the series but circumstances dictated otherwise. My iPod died. Gone. Just wiped to zero. 5 years of play counts, artwork, playlists etc – no more.

It was a 160GB silver ‘classic’ – which made it sound dated as soon as it came out. It’s travelled with me everywhere, and I used it for around 5-6 hours a day – at least. In the last week, it’s battery life was down to about half an hour, and it would turn itself off for no reason. Until today, when it decided to give up the ghost for good.

So, goodbye iPod. 24,000 songs, all gone. It was fun.

I was late to the iPod. Most of my friends had one by the time I did. I even bought one for a girlfriend before I got one for myself. I only really decided to get one when I decided to do some travelling. So I bought a 60GB one, in 2005.

Oddly, I did get an early mp3 player as a present. It was very hard to use. It made me resist “going digital” for a while.

I prepared by ripping some music to my computer before I even got one. In an ill made decision, I decided to start with Elvis Costello. Not just ALL his albums (up to Delivery Man, 21 of them), but all the Rhino bonus discs. Get Happy itself was 50 tracks. My iTunes had 20 versions of Watching the Detectives, what with all the demos and live versions. When I finally got the iPod, it was basically an Elvis Costello iPod.

So I wiped all that and started again. I tried to be more democratic about it the second time around. Basically, I would put one album on by every artist I really loved. Live with that for a bit. Then choose another album by them, and spread the net wider to artists that I liked. Then again, another round. It was like the nerdiest NBA draft picks.

I managed to hit 24,000 songs on my iPod, including several thousand I deleted over the years, before she died. I think by the end of it, every Elvis Costello album was back on there.

I wasn’t that excited by the iPod to begin with. I remember looking at it, on my sofa, in my house, thinking, I kind of just want to put these albums on my stereo. But I figured it might be handy.

The click-wheel was clever though. That alone got me past the gate. Much like the iPhone later, the iPod wasn’t only easy to use – it was kind of fun to use. Looks at me scroll!

I quickly took to it. I could listen to music in the garden! I could listen to music when I go for a smoke! I could listen to music on that walk from the train station to home. I could even listen on the train.

In fact, the biggest negative is that when I got an iPod, it killed my reading. My reading has still never recovered. Maybe it might now.

I got the first ‘Photo iPod’. Hilarious to think of it now. I remember how Tom, an early iPod owner, had this two colour one, with buttons across the top. We used to listen to stuff in his car. And that geeky pleasure of thinking ‘mine is cooler’.

The best thing about this new iPod was that you could load colour album covers on there and it would come up on the screen. This was exciting at the time! And it wasn’t that long ago. It was the same year the FOURTH Harry Potter film came out. Yet it was exciting to get colour on the iPod.

I remember showing my friends who were musicians their own albums, with artwork, on this iPod. So wanky. But we were all fascinated.

This first iPod travelled with me overseas. I have hundreds of memories of walking through Europe, listening to music. Maybe I missed some of the sounds of a city, but as a music nutter, I couldn’t be happier.

60 GB turned out to be not enough. I had to keep deleting things. Finally, I had a car accident and found myself in a wheelchair for months. I got an iPod and meticulously imported all the info across to a new, 160GB monster. It took weeks.

I keep breaking headphones. Glasses and headphones. Geez, I have spent so much money on those things. And I approach headphones the same as glasses – buy something cheap because it will break or you will lose them.

I bought a really expensive pair once – Seinnheiser somethings. It had a case. A very complicated folding motion would collapse the headphones and you would twirl the lead around it’s body. It was as fun as folding a map. I had it for two weeks before I left it in a cab.

So I usually go for the second cheapest pair there is. I use James’ theory on this. If you buy the cheapest one, everything about it is bad. But if you buy the second cheapest, it means at someone thought about these headphones on some level (could have just been the price).

No wonder they keep breaking all the time though. Usually the bit near the pin, that goes into the iPod, goes first. But sometimes the headphone itself falls apart. But dozens of pairs of those is still cheaper than that expensive pair.

In recent years, I’ve discovered (cheap) in-ear headphones. Odd at first, now I’m used to shoving rubber things in my ears. Sure it blocks out a bit of noise and sounds stronger, but it just stays in the ear and bit better.

My second iPod, the 160GB monster, lasted me until this week. It recorded 5 years of my listening habits. I got quite obsessed with looking at it statistically.

For example:

Most played song was Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. 78 plays.

Of 24,000 songs, only 1000 had never gotten at least one play.

However, half that collection was 4 plays or less. So there’s a lot of junk on there.

Poor ‘Sunday Girl’ by Blondie, was added to my iPod 4 years ago, and I never listened to it once.

I would add roughly 20GB of music to my iPod every year.

It was fun, looking at listening habits through maths. Well, fun for me anyway. I’ve lost all that now.

For the last few years, every morning, I listen to five songs that have zero plays. I get a lot of albums, and I still buy plenty of them. It’s one of many tricks I had to explore my collection.

And it’s great to have all those songs in your pocket. Whatever thought tickles your fancy can be there. God knows there have been times when the sun is shining and the only thing that could make me feel better is to hear Make Me Lose Control by Eric Carmen. And before the iPod, how would you ever hear that song?

Mainly though, I would just shuffle. Thousands of songs, what will fate dial up? Whether I’m on the a crowded train on the Circle Line, or walking around Berlin, lets see what song I can pin this memory to.

Trish mentioned today that I was taking the death of my iPod well. For some reason, it didn’t really matter to me all that much. I did try for an hour to save the thing, but in the end it was easy to let go of. I think, maybe, I was in need of a change.

The iPod death was always the biggest worry. I remember Jon, with an early iPod, losing everything, and paying big money to computer experts to no avail. I have almost lost my iPod many times, and those were scary moments.

I’ve put Born to Run (the album with Thunder Road on it) on my new 160 GB iPod. I’m going to put some records I’ve loved from this year. And start the draft again. Five years ago, the first Velvet Underground album I reached for was The Velvet Underground & Nico. I’m thinking now it’s got to be Loaded. But even part of me thinks maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe it’s time to find another new path altogether.

Maybe the shuffle thing should go too. Maybe, like many of my friends, I should just rotate my collection. Who knows. Without music being my job, I don’t need half of that stuff in my pocket. Hell, having gone through cassettes the CDs, I’m not even sure iPods will last that much longer.

So, It’s kind of exciting to start again. I get to rediscover all my music. Or maybe I will finally get some reading done again.

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