Column: The one friend who never leaves my side

I’ve already owned two iPads. My newest MacBook Pro laptop is probably the fourth or fifth computer I’ve used since beginning my career here in 2006. (Some suffered ill fates, such as the laptop that got crushed by a rolling grill in the back of a van. Imagine explaining that to your boss.) I’ve always been careful with cell phones, but even without breaking any, the natural order of progression has required me to cycle through four or five phones in the past nine years.

Rapidly changing technology leaves us little time to grow attached to devices. Finally figured out how to work your phone? Great, now it’s time for an upgrade.

As my gadgets come and go, one has remained constant: the iPod. You remember iPods, right? Available in white or black, they were small rectangular devices that could fit in the palm of a hand with a simple click wheel on front. They held music. Some, lots of music. More music than I will likely ever own.

In their time, iPods were the signature item from Steve Jobs and the behemoth Apple.

My first iPod, a white, 60-gigabyte classic model, came as a college graduation present in 2006. I figured I’d get a few years out of it before its internal clock told it to self-combust, Apple’s way of forcing the consumer to keep doling out money for new products.

But a funny thing happened. It’s nearly a decade later and I still own the same iPod.

The thing refuses to die.

And I still use it almost daily, which is kind of like saying I still use a cassette player. Connected through a USB cord to my car radio, the iPod serves as a mobile hard drive for all my music.

Apple officially killed off the iPod last year, sparking a bevy of requiems posted online in homage to the relic. I’m a bit late to the postmortem, but in all the various articles I’ve read, I haven’t seen a writer who’s owned just one iPod.

My iPod has seen better days, for sure. The screen is heavily scratched. It’s twice as thick as my iPhone 5. The push button in the center requires serious effort. If I click the fast-forward button too soon after a song comes on, it’s likely to freeze, requiring me to wait for the battery to die before I can recharge it and start again. I’ve learned to be patient.

Yet for some reason, I can’t let go.

My iPod still has 34.8 gigabytes of space available, which at this rate I should have filled in about 15 more years.

Perhaps I’m a bit nostalgic for MP3 players. I grew up alongside the birth of digital music. Sometime in the late ’90s I desperately wanted a Rio audio player, which held something like 32 megabytes of space, or about one CD worth of music. I never did get one, which was probably for the better. The iPod quickly rendered that brand obsolete.

At the time, digital music was just taking off. I like to think I was one of the first people who downloaded music off Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing program that eventually came under heavy fire for copyright infringement.

I actually downloaded music before Napster in an utterly archaic way. (Gather ’round children, for a history lesson). The original music sharing services started in AOL chatrooms with titles like “MP3” or “Music.” A server host would send out email blasts with pages worth of music available. In the chatroom, users could type a code corresponding to which songs they wanted. If the server wasn’t backed up, an email would eventually land in the inbox with the MP3 attached.

I typed in the wrong number on my first request. I landed a song by the rapper Mystikal.

All of those thousands of MP3s I downloaded (mostly illegally) in the early days of digital music have been lost in the hard drives of broken-down desktop computers of yesteryear.

My current music collection from the past decade has survived from one computer to the next. Mostly, with the help of an old pal: my iPod.

Joe_Werkmeister_2012.jpgJoe Werkmeister is the managing editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected].