In honour of the launch of the original scroll wheel iPod on Oct. 23, 2001, let’s look back on some notable iPod models and what they say about you as an early tech consumer. Every iPod tells a story, and some of the stories they told were pretty darn rough. Rip. Mix. Burn.
The first iPod was a monster, and owning one meant you were an Apple die-hard, especially during Apple’s slow revival. The Firewire port alone was enough to keep all but the most loyal of Apple fans away, and the fact that it didn’t work on Windows meant you were probably in design, photography, or video production way back in Y2K. This is the ultimate Gen-X device: clunky, angry, and contrarian.
Fun fact: Someone is selling this gross iPod on Etsy for $US2,999 ($4,212). I seriously doubt it’s worth that much.
After a brief detour to a model with four buttons above the scroll wheel, Apple settled into the once-familiar matte touch wheel with four click points. This model defined the brand for the next decade, and if you owned one of these, you probably had rich parents who got frustrated at Best Buy and decided this was the easiest MP3 player to get. Also important to note that by the time this thing hit the stores in 2004, Limewire had supplanted Napster as the music piracy solution of record and you probably had a massive collection of Dave Matthews bootlegs.
It was also amazing for ASMR.
iPod Special Edition U2
OK, Boomer. If you inexplicably bought this model we know you loved The Joshua Tree and that the original iPod branding didn’t quite click so when it came time to pick up an iPod you decided to throw your arms around the world and grab this U2-branded monstrosity. Sadly, the album associated with this release, How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, was some rough stuff and probably destroyed your favourite band — but “Desire” is still a banger, right?
If you picked one of these up in 2004, you were probably training for a marathon and needed something that wouldn’t weigh down your running shorts. You also didn’t really care very much about the video features the bigger iPods were getting — you were just in it for the music, man.
It was 2005 and you hate Apple products. You figured that since you used the shuffle function on your Archos Jukebox, it might be nice to have this thing as a second MP3 player. It was a wild idea — an MP3 player without a screen — and to your contrarian mind, you figured it was a middle finger to Steve Jobs.
In the end, you were sorely disappointed, but this acted as a gateway drug to other Apple gear, and suddenly you had a new video iPod and a Macbook. You hated yourself for getting suckered by Apple, but you got over it. Now you’re excited when you pass by an Apple Store.
6th-Gen iPod Nano
You needed something for the gym, so this is what you figured would work. At this point in Apple’s explosive decade, the fandom was huge and you could earn extra fanboy points if you turned this ridiculous thing into a watch. If you ended up buying this thing in 2010, you were so deep into the Apple branding machine that you hadn’t used a Windows machine in a full decade.
7th-Gen iPod Nano
At this point, you’re a glutton for punishment. You’ve sworn that you’ll never buy an iPhone, and you use this for fitness and audiobooks. You’re just getting into podcasts as well, so this made sense. This Nano is so weird, but you knew you didn’t want the camera-enabled 5th generation model, so this is where things ended up.
3rd-Gen iPod Touch
If you owned this model you were probably a tween in 2010. Your parents wanted to make you happy, but they didn’t want to shell out for a phone, so you got what amounted to the next worst thing. Sure, you couldn’t use it for anything cool and it couldn’t make phone calls, but at least you could eventually play games on it.
5th-Gen iPod Touch
This is the model you got when the rest of the family all had FaceTime and you didn’t. It had enough features to be useful but was still deeply flawed. In the end, you upgraded to an iPhone and never looked back. This is probably in a drawer somewhere, waiting for your return like a sad-eyed and loyal golden retriever.
After the iPod Touch refreshes stopped the iPod bloodline died out, disappearing model by model off of the Apple website. It was a good run, to be sure, and if you took part in the hype machine you’ll look back on the good old days of hard-drive-based music players and scratchy Mp3s as a golden era for consumer electronics. Pour one out for the Shuffles, iPods Classic, and Minis. Gone but not forgotten.