In loving memory of the iPod Classic

Entertainment makes me nostalgic for gadgets of decades past. Usually, this comes in the form of a neon-colored cellphone that, if we’re being honest, was a piece of crap, but looked pretty damn spiffy. It can be Sandy Cohen trying to wield a Motorola Sidekick in The O.C. or Elle Woods typing on a iBook in Legally Blonde. When the gadget in question appears on screen, I find it impossible to hold back my strong reaction.

Most of this stems from personal relationships I’ve had with those gadgets. Like Sandy Cohen, I too had a Sidekick. I was in the tenth grade and spent most of my time flipping the screen up without abandon … that is when I figured out how to use it. The struggle to actually understand the Sidekick’s nature and abide by its rules instead of trying to force it to conform to my own only endeared me to it more.

Or like Elle Woods, the first piece of hardware I fell in love with that wasn’t a gaming console was the iBook. My older sister had one and, while I wasn’t allowed to pay with it, I did spend hours watching her work on it from afar. I was fixated on the beauty of the machine; the colorful shell juxtaposed the clean, white keyboard was something I came to adore pretty quickly. I didn’t understand what the purpose of an OS was at the time, but I knew that I preferred Apple’s operating software to Windows 98, which we were running on our family computer.

Sandy trying to open a Sidekick

I love gadgets and hardware. Once I see a phone or a laptop, I’m transported back to the first time I lay my eyes or ran my fingers across it. I’m not trying to sexualize gadgets — because we have a tendency to do so— but I also don’t want to underplay the emotional connection we can have to a specific item. Sometimes a piece of technology can enter our lives at a specific moment when we need it most. We become attached to it, and as stupid as it sounds, we come to rely on it.

I’m burying the lede here, but the reason I wanted to blog about gadgets today was because I saw the trailer for Edgar Wright’s new movie, Baby Driver. The film follows a young getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort), who’s forced to do one more job for his crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), before he can return to his “normal life.” The trailer itself is fine, but what I was immediately taken aback by was Baby’s choice of MP3 player that he uses throughout the film: an iPod Classic.

The iPod Classic remains my favorite MP3 player for a number of reasons. Besides the obvious beautiful design, 80 to 160GB worth of storage and being simple to use, the iPod Classic encompassed everything that made other models in the iPod line —like the Nano and the Mini — great, but took it to a whole other level.

The iPod Classic also holds sentimental value in my life. When I was 16, I was undergoing one of the first major depressive episodes. Let’s just say it got pretty bad. I pushed back my birthday in January until the summer because I didn’t want to see anyone for close to eight months. The only thing I could turn to was music, which at the time I was playing through a Microsoft Zune.

[Editor’s note: The Zune is a fine piece of hardware that shall be revisited in another blog. I want to stress that in no way do I intend to insult the Zune.]

The Zune was fine (see?), but it eventually broke down and I didn’t have enough money at the time to fix it. My parents, strong believers in the concept of “If you want something, you need to work for it yourself” also refused to buy me another MP3 player.

“Use your walkman,” they argued. “You have so many CDs!”

They weren’t wrong. But this was 2008 and I wanted a decent MP3 player to listen to. After all, it’s much easier to hide an MP3 player in class than a walkman. But I did end up using the walkman out of necessity for a few months. It was, for lack of a better word, awful.

Fast forward a couple of months. It’s July, more than six months after my birthday, and I’m feeling like myself again. My depressive period, which would rear its ugly head time and time again over the next nine years, seemed to be on pause. I used the time to have a Sweet 16 of sorts. I invited a bunch of friends over, decked out in the best pop-punk and post-hardcore band tees we could find, and inhaled as much Greek food as we could.

Having my best friends with me in my parents backyard, drinking, smoking, and listening to the bands we obsessed over at the time was already the perfect birthday. I wasn’t looking for anything more. I had everything I needed right there, but that’s not what makes the day so memorable.

As the night wore on, we decided to go for a walk down to the local ravine where kids tend to drink and fuck. It’s secluded enough that you can get away with almost anything and close enough to suburban streets that you can easily access it. As we descended upon the ravine, laughing about something stupid, we made our way to this pit area where a couple of seniors had built a campfire spot. There were logs, broken lawn chairs and the ground was soft enough that you could lay down on a jacket and be just as comfortable.

Once we got there, my friend Lindsay pulled out a card and a wrapped present, offering them both to me with a giant smile on her face.

“This is from all of us,” she said, nodding to the rest of our friends. “Remember why you love us.”

I opened the card and half-laughed, half-cried at the sweet, funny and loving notes my friends had written as eloquently as they could have as 15- and 16-year-olds, but curiosity got the best of me and I started ripping off the wrapping paper.

There, staring back at me, was a silver 160GB iPod Classic.

‘This is expensive,’ was the first thought that popped into my mind. ‘They shouldn’t have done this.’

I looked up at them, and from what I can remember, I must have looked pretty guilty because they immediately started laughing.

“Happy birthday, kiddo,” my friend said. “Everyone should have an iPod.”

I remember laughing at that, as did everyone else, but this was more than just a gift. It was more than just an iPod Classic. It was the best, most thoughtful gift I had received from friends at the time. As childish as it sounds, it made me feel loved during a time when I really needed it.

That’s part of the reason why the iPod Classic will always mean something to me beyond being a fantastic MP3 player, which it was. It was more than just a piece of hardware and as technology becomes more integrated into every aspect of our daily lives, it can be hard to see it as anything more than a tool that allows us to do things easier, faster and more efficiently.

But that summer, that day, the iPod Classic became the single most important “thing” I owned.

I miss it dearly.

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