My Portable Music Devices: A History - Part 6

The Renaissance of the iPod

Back in 2014 I did a five-part post about the various portable media players I had owned, from my first Discman (actually a Disc Walkman) all the way through to my HTC and the smart phone era (with stops along the way at a MiniDisc player and two Creative Zens). I had never considered being the owner of an iPod even when writing those posts in 2014, and then in discussing them with Connie I realised that we had been the owners of iPods – Connie had a Shuffle when we first met, and my sister gifted us a iPod Nano 6th Generation model. There is a reason that I am returning to this world of media devices – since the death of the Nexus, I’ve transferred to listening on the iPod and I wonder if I might continue even when it comes back.

Back in the mists of time, my sister had a parallel life of Musical Devices that mirrored to a certain extent my own – she inherited my MiniDisc player, for a while, and when I had my Creative Zen models she also had her own Creative Zen models, a Creative Zen Micro. If I think back, there is a short period of time in my life where three of the four of my family had Creative Zen players; my Dad had an old Creative Zen model, I had the Touch and Lynn the Micro. If you think about it, MP3 players were for a time the equivalent today of smartphones; the market was upgrading so fast with the large hard drives, then the smaller models, and then the flash memory revolution and memory cards that could be used for them, it was a really wild market for a time, ruled by Apple’s ubiquitous iPod. 

I read back over the previous five posts and noticed that whilst I did mention why I chose the Zen Touch over the iPod, I didn’t really explain that I did want an iPod, just that I couldn’t really justify it in the short term. Cash was a limited commodity for me at that time, and spending the most of it on music was my main prerogative – “wasting” a bunch of money on a device that did similar things for the only reason of owning an iPod meant losing some money for music or gigs. That was the equation that I remember making at the time – especially for the Touch. Upgrading to the Vision was mostly out of brand loyalty. That, however, doesn’t mean that I didn’t lust after an iPod. I really did. They were nice to use, worked probably a bit better (the click wheel was a UI classic, better than the touch-strip on the Zens) and it was a status that you had.

My sister joined the iPod team with a purchase of the first generation iPod nano around the time it came out. She picked up a 2Gb model (if I am remembering right) from me when I worked in the Link, who for a short while introduced a line of MP3 players (read mostly iPods) to try and stave off obliteration. The purchase of it from me time stamps it as late 2005 – I’d leave the Link the following summer of 2006 for a placement at Grangemouth, which would then fund the purchase of the Zen Vision:M player.

The iPod Nano was a revelation. It was so thin and so neat it was as much a shock to the system as the Motorola V3 had been a few years earlier. It was the third time the iPod line had shocked everyone; the first being the original and the second being the iPod mini. I remember lusting after the iPod photo, but it was the iPod nano that really made me wish I could have picked one up. But by then I was knee deep into the Napster service that was Spotify a few years earlier and the 2Gb space was useless for me, coming from a 20Gb hard drive. But it was great – except, it scratched like you wouldn’t believe. Lynn’s ended up defaced to an inch of its life. 

But you might have noticed that I mentioned using the iPod Nano recently during the recent expulsion from the Nexus 6P club. In 2011, six years after Lynn got her iPod (and around three years after she stopped using it) Apple announced that due to battery problems with the first generation model would be replaced but it wasn’t replaced by the iPod nano first generation – instead, Apple gave her a brand new 8Gb storage iPod Nano sixth generation, and because by then Lynn had moved on to other devices by then being the proud owner of an iPod Classic with it’s 120Gb hard drive and that Connie and I had expressed interest in picking up an iPod Nano anyway, everyone won and I became the owner of my first ever iPod. 

An iPod shuffle versus the iPod Nano - Taken from Flickr - user

An iPod shuffle versus the iPod Nano - Taken from Flickr - user

Connie used the iPod for when she was running her 5k in Aberdeen, and later at the gym, but for a good chunk of time it sat doing nothing, forgotten amongst the world of the smartphones. The biggest advantage it had was that it has the old 30 pin iPod connection, meaning it fits perfectly into the obsolete iPod docks I got when I had my iPhone 3G and iPhone 4. Now a days, these docks either have an aux cable in them or the Chromecast Audio I got before Christmas. Last week though, I gave up on trying to use the HTC Desire X as a music player, streaming stuff from Spotify or Google Music. The apps just didn’t work well with the RAM available on the device, which has been left behind on an old version of Android. Instead, I loaded the iPod to the gills with some indie and electronica (but mostly ambient and drone) and it is now my daily listener. 

And it’s great.

The device is a small square touch screen and not much larger than eraser. The touch screen is lovely to use and the interface looks like how the old iPhone operating system used to look before they messed it all up with the flat white styles that I really struggle to use on Connie’s phone and the iPad. The sound quality is great too, and the simplicity of a single device for just music (albeit without streaming) is wonderful. It’s probably the best Nano released (unlike the odd ones with cameras and the current one which looks like… what you’d have mocked up a fake iPod would have looked a few years back. The Nano is pure MP3 playing goodness, with no complications, and a form factor to lust after. It’s for me the perfect dedicated portable music device, and I am seriously considering keeping it on rotation at work due to it being so good at it’s one job.

So that’s the story of the comeback kid, the venerable iPod Nano 6th Gen, who eleven years after Lynn got the first one, and after years of sitting patiently waiting for a job, has found it’s calling, even if it is only for a week or so whilst I wait my Nexus 6P’s return.

And this final part (so far) in this series had inspired me to do the research needed to write up a history of my PC and Mac computers, so you've got that to look forward to.