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Eulogy for the iPod classic

Overshadowed by the excitement of Apple’s latest product announcements was the loss of a long-standing Apple product. On 9 September 2014, Apple took its Web site offline briefly to slip in a redesign, new iPhone models, and the Apple Watch, but when the site returned, there was something missing: the iPod classic, which had been unceremoniously scrubbed from both the site and Apple’s online store. The 160 GB iPod classic is survived by the 2 GB iPod shuffle, the 16 GB iPod nano, and the iOS-based iPod touch.

It’s the end of an era, one that rocketed Apple from a scrappy computer company fighting irrelevance to a superpower in the worlds of computing, music, mobile telephony, and photography. But while the iMac may have brought Apple back from the brink, and the iPhone made the company dominant, the path to Apple’s glory began on 23 October 2001, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod.

Looking back, it was a surprisingly low-key event (for our original coverage, see “Apple iPod Makes Music More Attractive,” 23 October 2001). There was no cheering, no elaborate on-stage demos, and the slides used Marker Felt as a typeface. It was a quiet launch for what would be Apple’s first major foray out of personal computing. Reactions were mixed, and not too dissimilar to initial reactions to the Apple Watch announcement. Some even called the iPod “lame.”

As the humble iPod gained features — the 30-pin dock connector, Windows compatibility, support for photos and videos — and split into numerous variants, sales soared. Hundreds of millions were sold, and many households still have an old iPod hanging around in a drawer.

Alas, when Apple released the iPhone in 2007, followed a few months later by the iPod touch, the fate of the traditional iPod line was writ large. Touchscreens, not click wheels, were the future of Apple’s portable devices.

Well, maybe that’s not quite true. As iPod sales continue to sink, the Apple Watch, relying as it does on the click wheel’s descendent, the digital crown, aims to take over as the next big thing (see “Apple Previews the New Apple Watch,” 9 September 2014).

As for the void left by the loss of the 160 GB iPod classic, the new 128 GB option for the iPhone 6 brings hope that a new iPod touch is just around the corner with the same storage capacity. So while the iPod classic may be gone, its legacy of putting massive amounts of music in your pocket lives on.


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Comments about Eulogy for the iPod classic
(Comments are closed.)

Ian Stavert  2014-09-11 16:33
128GB does not equal 160GB. Long live the iPod Classic. I was told at an Apple Store that the manufacture of this model finished in 2009, so they've been selling stockpiled product since then. I have two, one in the car, and the other connected to my hi-fi, both still with room to expand.
I suppose it's a good move to move to SD memory, but it's expensive, and that touchscreen in my car glovebox will be a wasted asset with the unit connected to my car audio system.
I've had an iPod since Gen 2. Love my iPods.
Kendall  2014-09-11 22:11
Gah, maybe I should buy another one as a backup of sorts.... Agreed, 128 isn't 160; my entire library (including unread audiobooks) fits on the Classic, but wouldn't fit on a 128 GB device, especially since, being an iPad or iPhone, it would have to also fit the apps and THEIR data (and in the case of the iPad, some video, as well).

Eventually the iPhone will get big enough to hold my whole library, but unfortunately, it's not there yet, and my library keeps growing.... ;-)
Seth Anderson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2014-09-11 16:46
sadly, my iPod Classic just died this week. I’ve tried all magic I know, plus the collective wisdom of the internet, but no luck. Oh well, it had a good run…
Bob Kemp  2014-09-16 04:33
In the same boat. I am investigating new hard drives but they're not cheap and I'm not sure if it's worth the risk.
Shawn Plank  2014-09-11 16:59
It took me a long time to wean myself from my iPod Classic and learn to use an iPhone as my primary music player. I still have my Classic and it still goes and while some of the interface now seems dated, there is still something special about that Click Wheel. What a great, simple innovative way to navigate. I lament its passing most of all. But I have to think that someday, somehow, Apple will resurrect it and it will serve a new, useful life again. I look forward to the day when Apple Reinvents the Click Wheel.
Lisa Spangenberg  2014-09-11 18:06
I have just turned on my original first generation iPod with Scroll Wheel. Still works just fine :D It's funny now, but when I got it, I didn't think there was any way I could fill it with 5 gigs of music. I thought I'd never run out of space.