Today the iPod shuffle looks like a distant relic of the past; a chunky USB 2.0 thumb drive which is capped with a yellowing lanyard, and a headphone jack—two wholly outmoded technologies, by Apple never the less. On the stick are six click, attractive physical buttons, and a combo shuffle-power switch that transformed the 120 songs that I could store into a soundtrack for brooding carpool rides.

Yesterday, as Apple unceremoniously pulled the product from its digital shelves,
I fished mine out of my drawer and plugged it in. The shuffle that’s now dangling from my neck was long outdate months after I got it. Apple has redesigned it that Fall, 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.

“Welcome to Your New iPod.” The message splashed on the screen with a graphic of an iPod touch, a pair of wired earbuds, and an iPod nano (RIP). I named it as “Harrison’s Last iPod.”

I needed songs next. After multiple migrations and searching 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 received from friends. Instead I signed into the old iTunes account and rummaged through old albums in the iTunes cloud.

A handful of records for which i once paid $10 for flooded back from the ether.
oola oola oolaa I ejected my iPod shuffle, 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 at last. No push notifications. No Tweets. No way to track my distance or the speed. Just a refreshing simple break, the USB stick which is thumping against my chest .

I jogged to a nearby park, passing people who were listening to music with wireless ear buds and their phones—the only practical iPods that exists today. In the bright sunlight of the 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 to the melody.

My shuffle which 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 Specify. Of course the Shuffle doesn’t make any sense today, not for me, or just about anyone else. No iPod does, really—unless you will be trying to live off the grid.

So goodbye, Shuffle. I will stow you away with full music for this time, so that one day, after iTunes dies too, I can grab a few USB dongles and adapters, charge you up, and listen to you once again.


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