A quest to tame technology-driven interruptions and distractions in my daily life.

A black and white world…

Two months ago today, Apple killed the iPod. You probably didn’t read much about it unless you follow tech blogs. They are still selling a few other models of the revered music player, but the “iPod Classic”—the last in the line of iPods that started it all—is no more.

Scroll back to 2004 when, in my humble opinion, I actually think the iPod peaked, this i before they added a color screen. It may seem like a silly viewpoint, but it makes perfect sense to me. Let me explain.

We still have three old iPods lying around and they still get used. There’s a iPod mini in the kid’s room (which used to play lullabies but he now has by his bed with headphones), there’s an old Nano that’s charging up as I write this for the boy to start carrying around, and we use the 3rd generation iPod in the car plugged into the stereo. This one…

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While it’s been a decade ago, I still have strong memories of first using that music player. I was already into technology, but since I had no cell phone, I was not carrying anything around. Like most people, I had given up on portable CD players and tried a crappy MP3 player, but the iPod was—of course—a revelation.

Looking back, I realize how it was in many ways the perfect little device. I got the 40 GB one, so it held my entire music library. As you may remember, it had Contacts, Notes (read only), Calendar, and a few little Atari-like games, and a small two-tone screen. Still, the power of carrying around all that music was mesmerizing.

I had my first downtown job and would walk on my lunch breaks and just listen to music. I might fool with it a little to choose new songs, but since the screen had all the graphical appeal of an early Casio watch, it was not something one would gaze into… especially given that there was no internet on it. You put in the headphones and just soaked up the music. It was incredible.

Like many other gadget happy people, I wished for the day that Apple would make a phone so I could combine the cell phone my job eventually insisted I carry with my iPod. I even bought the Motorola ROKR because it had iTunes. What I couldn’t forsee at the time was that once the screens went to color and there were photos to look at and album art and then (with the iPhone) the Internet and apps—what was once so magical became a sort of trap.

Fast forward to today. On what was probably an unstoppable march towards more devices that do more and more, color and everything that came after it were product features that would sell and we would gobble up eagerly. We’d not only want these things but we would believe we needed the 1-2 new models of iPod per year, the iPhone, the next iPhone, the iPad, and next the Apple Watch.

They are neat devices that do a lot of cool things and some of them actually useful, but I can’t say that—for me—after the original iPods that they really added anything to my life. I thought they did, but they didn’t. The other features started subdividing my attention and making me want more than just music.

As people do when they get to a certain age, I find myself longing for a time before things got so complicated and out of touch with simpler times. Inevitably, I find myself longing for a black and white world… filled with only music.

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