Apple is doing away with the iPod Shuffle, a gadget I’d eradicated from my mind until yesterday. And now I’m suddenly awash with emotion for a little white stick I hadn’t considered once in this decade. I’m going to miss the hell out of it. Damn you Apple, quit playing shuffle with my heart.
Late spring in 2006, at the ripe old age of 14, my girlfriend slid a box across the table at a restaurant we picked for our second anniversary. I unwrapped it, and what I saw packed neatly inside a sporty, lime-green box elated me: a 512 MB iPod Shuffle. The original Shuffle, about the size of a half-empty pack of gum, and glossy white; the only iPod I would ever own, until I bought an iPhone in 2009, out of shame for using a feature phone while blogging about tech.
Today the iPod shuffle looks like a distant relic of the past; a chunky USB 2.0 thumb drive capped by a yellowing lanyard, and a headphone jack — two wholly outmoded technologies, by Apple no less. On the stick are six clicky, physical buttons (Apple killed those too), and a combo shuffle-power switch that transformed the 120 songs I could store into a soundtrack for brooding carpool rides.
Back then it was almost perfect; a lovably dorky device, and relatively affordable at $100 (£76). I loved the damn thing, cared for it meticulously, and protected it with an ugly plastic jelly case, or occasionally, a modded Altoids tin, because I saw a DIY guide for it online. It was immaculate, I swear, until about four years later, when a stumble during a brief run left it scared forever.
Yesterday, as Apple unceremoniously pulled the product from its digital shelves, I fished mine out of a drawer and plugged it in. The shuffle that’s now dangling from my neck was outdated months after I got it. Apple redesigned it that autumn, and did so a few more times until a final update in 2010. There it sat more or less untouched for seven years. An eternity, for tech.
After failing to get my Shuffle working with just a quick charge, I decided I’d leave it plugged in overnight.
I woke up this morning to a fully charged Shuffle and bad news: it would not play. It would not shuffle. A lonely pair of green and orange lights blinked, indicating... something. Near the end of its first life, I remembered that I’d used the Shuffle as an actual USB thumb drive, and wiped it clean to print something at a UPS Store. This morning I dusted off an old install of iTunes on a laptop that still had USB ports, and clicked on the stick of gum-shaped Shuffle icon to restore it.
“Welcome to Your New iPod.” The message splashed on my screen with a graphic of an iPod touch, a pair of wired earbuds, and an iPod nano (RIP). I named it “Harrison’s Last iPod.”
I needed songs next. After multiple migrations from one laptop to another, I figured I had no music left to my name. Gone were songs ripped from CDs, downloaded from Kazaa, torrented, or lifted from friends. Instead I signed into my old iTunes account and rummaged through old albums in the iTunes cloud.
A handful of records I once paid $10 (£7) for flooded back from the ether. Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha. Dashboard Confessional’s So Impossible EP. Sigur Ros. Rilo Kiley. A Hillary Duff song. Frou Frou. A U2 Album I certainly did not buy. I clicked “Autofill” and wham: 44 songs — 3 hours, 49 minutes of music — zapped life back into my shuffle. I still had 264.7 MB to spare. Time for a jog.
I ejected my iPod, snapped the lanyard cap back on, slid the power switch to shuffle, slipped in a pair of wired headphones, and pressed play. Free from my phone. No push notifications. No Tweets. No way to track my distance or speed. Just a refreshingly simple break, the USB stick thumping against my chest with All The Things She Said by t.A.T.u.
I jogged to a nearby park, passing people listening to music with wireless earbuds and their phones — the only practical iPods that exists today. In the bright sunlight this morning, the indicator lights were too dim to tell me if I’d probably skipped a song, or show how much battery life I had left. All I could do was listen.
My shuffle will never connect to the internet. It’s utterly useless to the millions of music fans who now just rent their music from a service like Spotify. Of course the Shuffle doesn’t make any sense today, not for me, or just about anyone else. No iPod does, really — unless you’re trying to live off the grid.
So goodbye, Shuffle. I will stow you away with music on you this time, so one day, after iTunes dies too, I can grab a few USB dongles and adapters, charge you up, and listen to you once again.
- The iPod Shuffle is dead!
- 512 MB and 1 GB storage options, or 120 to 240 songs
- All The Things She Said is now stuck in your head
- The iPod Shuffle was good.