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Our memories of the iPod



It’s official: the iPod is over. After 20 years, Apple announced this week that it was discontinuing the final product in the brand that defined music players in the mid-2000s and helped catapult Apple to mainstream success.

A lot of us at The Verge have fond memories of our days spent using the music players over that two-decade run, so we decided to write some of them down to reflect not just on what a great music player it was but also what an important device it was in our lives at the time. Plus, we’ve got a lot of scars from these things getting destroyed or “going missing.”

Here are our memories of buying iPods, rediscovering them, nurturing them back to life, and sometimes just losing them.

I have two iPod stories: one about the first one I ever got and another about the last one I purchased new.

My first MP3 player was actually a 2GB Walkman, but as soon as I saw the “Nano-chromatic” ad for the fourth-gen iPod Nano, I decided I was going to buy it. The main problem was that I was 12, and $149 was a lot of money for me — so I spent months scraping together allowances, money from mowing lawns, and gift cards. When I finally had enough, I marched into Toys R Us and picked out a blue one. Finally, I was about to get my first iPod.

I hadn’t considered sales tax and was short a few dollars. The cashier must’ve realized how shattered I was because they offered to cover the rest in what was almost certainly the greatest act of kindness I’d experienced in my young life. I still have that iPod, though its battery no longer holds a charge.

Fast forward a few years, and I was a stereotypical techy teen with a jailbroken and modded iPod Touch fourth gen. At one point, I uninstalled something that was apparently essential using the jailbreaking tool Cydia and was completely unable to restore the iPod back to working condition. After a few months, I decided to dig the device out of my closet and give restoring it another shot. Miraculously, it worked, and my iPod was back to running stock iOS 5.

The next day, as I was getting out of my very cool minivan, it slid out of my pocket and fell onto the concrete driveway, shattering the screen. RIP to a real one. – Mitchell Clark

The iPod was the first “cool” gadget I ever owned. I had a string of crappy other MP3 players, a Diamond Rio and an Archos Jukebox, but then I bought a gold iPod Mini. It held four gigs of music, which even back then felt like less than some of its competitors, but it was tiny and fast and the thing felt like magic. Most of all, it didn’t skip every time the car hit a bump like a bunch of the other hard drive-based players I had.

The Mini went everywhere with me for years until it was stolen out of my car in my high school parking lot. (I can still picture exactly where my car was parked, the weather that day, everything about the moment I discovered it was gone.) I couldn’t afford another one, so I went back to my other devices, all of which now seemed lousy even though they actually held quite a bit more music. But I kept the white headphones because as long as I had those, it kind of felt like I still had an iPod. Until I hit a pothole and the thing skipped tracks. – David Pierce

A fifth-generation iPod.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

My first iPod was the fifth-gen iPod Video. The first-gen iPod came out in my freshman year of high school, and I watched enviously for years as all the rich kids showed theirs off between classes. In my junior year, I basically put together a PowerPoint for my dad, detailing my grades and all my silly high school achievements. My dad didn’t say anything, and I sulked off, resigned to my fate.

I was completely surprised when, a few weeks later, a package from Apple arrived at our door. My dad had a smirk on his face. It was the black version, too, since he knew I was a goth teen. (This was despite the fact he wished I’d stop being goth with every fiber of his being). My dad was a stoic man, so he didn’t really say much other than “enjoy.” Needless to say, I loaded that baby up with as many movies and songs as it would hold. It was my companion for late-night study sessions and hour-long commutes to school. More often than not, however, it was what I turned to as my parents muddled their way through a messy breakup.

You could probably say something about sulky teens listening to emo music as their parents split up in explosive fashion. But it was an immense comfort to slip on my headphones and play my music, uninterrupted by notifications and apps.

My iPod Video lasted me about three years, until one day, I dropped it on the sidewalk and it split open. By that time, I was very much over its buggy interface and a click wheel that didn’t want to cooperate anymore. I wanted a newfangled iPod Touch. But something about my poor, loyal iPod Video lying shattered on a sidewalk made me tear up.

I took it home and kept it in a box for years. I couldn’t throw it out. I then forgot about it for almost a decade and, strangely, found it when cleaning out my junk in 2018. My dad had just died, but there, when I was missing him most, was one of the most precious gifts he ever gave me — a reminder of how much he loved me even if he couldn’t express it. And maybe, just maybe, me finding it that day was my dad comforting me from beyond the grave. – Victoria Song

My “first iPod” story is a lot like David’s. My first MP3 player was a Rio that could hold just a handful of songs, and for some reason, I have a very strong memory of one of those being a James Bond theme remix. My iPod Mini — in its glorious baby blue color — was a massive upgrade. It could hold way more songs than my Rio, and it was just fun to use. I still miss the scroll wheel! (I don’t know if I put that James Bond song on it.) It’s one of my favorite devices ever, and I wish I still had it. – Jay Peters

Apple Ipod Mini at the Apple Computer store in Soho.,

An iPod mini.
Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The iPod Mini was my first iPod, and I’m pretty sure that it aided in some minor hearing loss. I used it every day, nestled into its handy plastic cradle and tucked into my waistband, to drum to the beat of my favorite music as I was learning how to play, a hobby that further aided in said hearing loss. This iPod also joined me aboard my family’s tractor when I had to mow our lawn every week, a chore that probably contributed to hearing loss, too. I have no incredible tales to tell about my ownership of this iPod, other than it went everywhere with me and dutifully did its job as a no-nonsense music player that also had Brick Game built-in. – Cameron Faulkner

My first iPod was the very first iPod — and it was bought in a sweet attempt by my mom to cheer me up. I was excited to have so much storage on one device and to have an MP3 player that worked out of the box with iTunes. I used it constantly, sometimes plugged into one of those terrible tape decks and sometimes into one of those terrible FM transmitters. The tunes carried me along 12-hour drives back and forth from college, and having all my music in one place took the sting out of the loss of my favorite sleeve of mix CDs in a Dillard’s parking lot in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

A screenshot of a conversation from iMessage. The sender asks: “Peter, it’s been 20 years, did you take my first gen iPod and sit on that secret for decades?” Peter responds with an SNL gif of Stefon saying “Yes,” then later replies “lol no.”

Investigating a disappearance.
Screenshot: Alex Cranz

Then, one day, it vanished. It wasn’t in any of my purses. It wasn’t in my car. It wasn’t in my bedroom. I was home on summer break from college, so it definitely wasn’t in my dorm room. It was simply gone. I got a much cheaper iPod Shuffle to replace it, and it wasn’t nearly as good. For years I’ve wondered if my younger brother secretly took it so he could look cool to the other high schoolers.

I recently attempted to investigate this long lingering mystery, but the results of my investigation have been inconclusive. – Alex Cranz

My first iPod was the 40GB click wheel model. I bought it in like-new condition off eBay in 2005. My favorite thing about it wasn’t the large storage space, the shiny finish that I protected in a Griffin clear case, or the plain cool factor. My favorite thing about it was a top-mounted FM radio transmitter accessory called iTrip. It looked like a water tank that plugged into the headphone jack yet somehow also looked like a natural extension of the iPod. Since it ran off the iPod battery, I could jump into a friend’s car and just have them tune to 87.9, which was great since many cars did not have an aux jack or Bluetooth yet.

When the iPod with video came out, I knew I had to have it. So I sold my iPod on eBay and bought my first brand new Apple product: a black 60GB fifth-generation iPod. I really wanted to protect this iPod, so I took it to a mall kiosk that applies clear vinyl protectors — big mistake. They used a razor blade to cut around the iPod wheel and completely scratched it up. They didn’t take responsibility for it, so, in my sorrow, I sold it on eBay at a loss. I couldn’t get myself to buy another new Apple device for a long time, but in the meantime, I played MP3s on Windows Mobile devices like the Cingular / HTC 2125 and on a Game Boy Advance licensed MP3 player accessory that came with a 32MB compact flash card. – Umar Shakir

I grew up an Apple hater as a kid with a silly predisposition to dislike its products because I was all about gaming and PCs. I initially scoffed at the early iPods in favor of my Discman. I was the embodiment of this Penny Arcade comic strip. I didn’t try or use an iPod for the longest time, but I piggy-backed on some of the “well, actually”-style rhetoric I overheard about them not even having good sound quality. When downloading MP3s became a way of life, my eyes were trained on weird players from other brands like iRiver and even Intel. (How fitting, as an annoying PC fanboy, to think “Intel!”)

I couldn’t afford any of them in high school, but, in early college, I landed on a Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen that was basically a laptop hard drive in an ugly plastic shell with a small monochrome screen. That thing was like a small tank of cheap removable storage that once got me openly mocked at a friend’s drunken basement party when it was my turn to plug into the speakers. I definitely did not talk shit back to them while being secretly envious of their sleek iPods. Nope, not at all.

My strong and misguided opinions toward Apple’s products began to soften when I started using Macs in my college photography classes, and I eventually picked up my first and only iPod — a lime green third-gen iPod Shuffle. I bought it for cheap on eBay to use while running, and that didn’t pan out, of course. But I loved it despite its flawed, buttonless design. I still have it to this day, and if I ever find the annoying 3.5mm to USB charger, maybe I’ll power it on and see if I can remember the earbud button sequences to control play, pause, skip, and rewind.

Or maybe I shouldn’t because I shudder to think what cringe music might still live on it. –Antonio G. Di Benedetto

My first iPod was a hand-me-down from my older sister. It was a black iPod Classic filled with angsty songs that 7th graders probably shouldn’t have had access to, like Panic! At the Disco’s Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off.

That little machine was with me through the entirety of my most awkward (and attempted emo) phase. When I eventually got my very own second-gen blue iPod Nano, things didn’t change. I plugged it into the family computer and loaded it up with my sister’s collection of emo songs from iTunes, getting myself a copy of all the P!ATD, The Academy Is, and Taking Back Sunday songs a preteen girl could hope for.

My iPod is now collecting dust somewhere in my parents’ house. Wherever you are iPod, I hope you’re cozy in the blue sock I bought you. – Emma Roth

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I tried (and failed) to channel my inner Bezos



We live in an age where the power of narrative is so strong that it has become the defining way to build organizations, products and brands. In recent decades, the tech industry has presented itself as the savior to all of our problems, and now dominates so much of our culture as a consequence. And there is a quasi-religious fervor to this, especially when we look at the lionization of certain individuals, or the fact that paid-for-marketing-types are called “evangelists,” and the in-group mentality that forms afterward.

If the model for this sanctified tech guru was Steve Jobs, then its most recent exponent must be Elon Musk. Musk’s rise coincided with a vacuum left in the wake of Jobs’ demise, and his image – his personal brand – has been tweaked several times in the last two decades. Compare this footage when he received his first McLaren F1 to a . And Musk’s savviest piece of personal branding is to make him an aspirational figure both as an engineer and entrepreneur.

Noted philosopher Andre Agassi once said that “image is everything,” and that was back in the days before social media. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently after watching Apple TV’s WeCrashed. There’s a scene where Anne Hathaway’s character enlists the help of a personal branding expert who asks her, deep down, what sort of person she wants to be. It’s a scene designed to emphasize her inner turmoil at the time, but it got me wondering. Were these consultants invented for the purposes of the story, or do they really do exist?

It turns out that there’s a whole industry of people helping the titans of industry massage their personal brand. But branding, in this context, isn’t the same as styling or something similarly superficial. Its boosters would say it’s a combination of psychotherapy and marketing that, when done properly, is about resolving deep-seated internal conflicts in your psyche. And yes, you might need to pick a pair of shoes that test well with adults aged 29-45, but it’s a lot more about crafting a story around you, about you, which you can present to the wider world.

Branding consultant Lucy Freeman says that many of her clients reach their late ‘30s or early ‘40s and feel suddenly unmoored from their own personalities. “They come to this realization that [having reached a point of leadership in a company] they’ve let themselves disappear,” she said. That’s a problem, especially if they’re now expected to take on a more public-facing role and now need to “fight their way out of the company brand.”

Branding expert Am Golhar says that, often, it’s about how people “want to be perceived” that drives them to seek out help. Ed Zitron, owner of PR agency EZPR, agrees, saying that the point of personal branding is to gain “attention with the media,” so a person can “position themselves as good at, or smart, about something.” He added that “third-party validation is huge: You’d rather listen to a reporter that’s ostensibly done research on something than an ad or piece of marketing collateral.”

Emerge founder Emily Austen recruits a behavioral psychologist as part of her process, with a mission to help identify “what [the client’s] POV should, or could, be to have the space to say something others cannot.” She added that being seen as an “entrepreneur has become a status symbol,” a phenomenon supercharged by the ability to broadcast what you’re doing over social media. “It satisfies the [public] fascination with success, and it looks glamorous and exciting,” she said.

I also asked if it would be possible to drag some random from the street, My Fair Lady style, and turn them into a branding superstar. Golhar says that there’s “got to be something there,” citing the example of Gemma Collins, a British reality TV star who leveraged her larger-than-life personality on The Only Way is Essex to become a household name.

All of the people I spoke to described, in one way or another, a process whereby the figure looking to change has to first interrogate themselves. Golhar says that it’s about them going through an “alignment process [to discover] who they are.” Thought Leadership PR founder Helen Croydon added that the questions you ask people include “why they chose this career path” and what are their “talking points.” Before you can brand, or rebrand yourself, you need to understand what it is that you’re selling.

One common anxiety that clients share is the belief that they’re about to become a strutting diva. After all, executives don’t need a brand, which sounds a little too much like caring about what other people think of you, do they? (I mean, we all do care about what other people think about us, but it seems gauche to do anything so drastic as to do anything about that.) Freeman says that the process is more about re-discovering your “non-negotiables and absolute truths.”

Another thing that came up repeatedly was a desire for these figures to demonstrate that they were an expert in the subject matter at hand. “They do care about their image,” said Croydon, “but [they’re] more concerned with portraying professional expertise in their industry.” The hope is, as always, that the greater your esteem, the more you’ll be able to leverage that into future opportunities.

There are shortcuts, if you can afford it, that will help cut some of the time it would normally take to build your new brand. Croydon, for instance, explained that agencies will hire journalists to ghostwrite material on behalf of their clients. She herself employs a number of writers who can produce such content in the service of furthering someone’s brand. Not, she explains, because the individuals can’t do it themselves, but often they’re sufficiently time-poor that they need the help.

Zitron has made his name as a vocal critic of much of what the PR industry does and isn’t a fan of the idea of personal branding at all. “There isn’t an honest [process],” he said, “personal branding is intentionally choosing what you want to share with the world at large.” That, however, “involves hiding specific things, or intentionally obfuscating parts of your life so you look better or are accepted by more people.” “If you are building a narrative for a singular person that is not ‘this is their history and this is where they’ve got to in their lives,’ then you are intentionally misleading people.” Zitron added that while there is “nothing wrong with trying to present your best self,” which, of course, we’re all doing a lot of the time, there’s a problem if “you are doing so with malicious intent.”

But despite Zitron’s warnings, I did want to explore the world of personal branding, hell, it might even help me in my career. Freeman was kind enough to sign me up for a 90-minute session where we would delve into what exactly my personal brand was, and what it could be. She started by asking me questions about what I like, what my values are and what brings me joy. Then we moved on to questions about what I’d like to do more and less of, looking for problems in my day that I’d like to get past.

Then we spent a long time discussing, for instance, how my friends, family and co-workers perceive me – or how I think they do. These were, I’ll admit, hard questions, and there’s a noticeable pause when I’m asked Who do you tell yourself you are? The follow up was harder: Who are you afraid to tell yourself that you are? It was heavy stuff. Now, in any normal story, this is the point where I reveal I’ve got lots of good tips on finding my own personal brand to share with you. But that didn’t happen, mostly because, based on my responses, Freeman told me “you have never, actually thought about [your authentic self] for a second.”

Ah. Maybe it’s true, then, that in order to cultivate a personal brand that there has to be some nugget of raw something that can be shaped into something more effective. I wonder, too, if you don’t require a fairly hefty dose of self-belief, enough to propel you toward the idea of considering your brand in the first place. Clearly that is something I’ll need to work on.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Microsoft tests Windows 11 desktop widgets with web search bar



Microsoft is adding an optional web search to the Windows 11 desktop in the operating system’s latest Insider Preview Build. The company describes the feature as “lightweight interactive content” — the first, it says, of many such tools it’s considering adding to Windows 11 — but let’s call the thing what it really is: a widget.

Not everyone signed up to the latest Windows 11 preview build will see the new search box, but anyone who does and doesn’t like it can disable the feature by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting “Show more options,” and then toggling “Show search.”

If you are running the latest preview build, you’ll also have to restart your computer to give the search box a chance to show up.

Is it a useful feature? Probably for some, and probably not for others. It’s a web search rather than a system search (which you can add to the taskbar in Windows 10 and 11 for easy access), and could be useful if you need to quickly pull up content after starting your machine from scratch. But most people, I suspect, constantly have at least one browser window open, and will probably find it easier to search from there than go to the desktop. (A cynic might note that it’s also another way for Microsoft to steer users to Edge and Bing.)

At any rate, it’s interesting to see the company play with desktop widgets, as opposed to corralling these tools into a separate panel (for more on that, see our review of Windows 11).

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Democratic lawmakers want FTC to investigate controversial identity firm



A group of Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to, the controversial identification company best known for its work with the Internal Revenue Service. In a addressed to , the group suggests the firm misled the American public about the capabilities of its facial recognition technology.

Specifically, lawmakers point to a made at the start of the year. After CEO Blake Hall said the company did not use one-to-many facial recognition, an approach that involves matching images against those in a database, backtracked on those claims. It clarified it uses a “specific” one-to-many check during user enrollment to prevent identity theft.

Following that statement, the IRS began to distance itself from, it would reconsider its use of the platform in late January. It subsequently began allowing taxpayers to authenticate their identity . But as the letter points out, many state and federal agencies continue to require Americans to submit photos and documents to before they can access vital services, including unemployment insurance.

“Americans have particular reason to be concerned about the difference between these two types of facial recognition,” the senators write of’s turnaround, noting a one-to-many approach inevitably means millions of people will have their photographs “endlessly” accessed. “Not only does this violate individuals’ privacy, but the inevitable false matches associated with one-to-many recognition can result in applicants being wrongly denied desperately-needed services for weeks or even months as they try to get their case reviewed.”

In making the statements it did, the group is asking the FTC to determine whether committed “deceptive and unfair business practices.” The company already faces an investigation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a statement it shared with , declined to comment on the specific concerns mentioned in the letter from Senator Wyden. Instead, the company pointed to its track record of preventing unemployment fraud.

“ played a critical role in stopping that attack in more than 20 states where the service was rapidly adopted for its equally important ability to increase equity and verify individuals left behind by traditional options,” the company said. “We look forward to cooperating with all relevant government bodies to clear up any misunderstandings.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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