Hi. Hey. How’s it goin’? You been doin’ OK the past couple of years? Yeah, me neither.
Sigh Modern life, am I right?! Ya know, I’m still definitely a geek, but the further we go into the future, the more I find myself longing for the past… well, at least, parts of it. But more than anything, I miss those days of bright, shining optimism: the promise in the past of a better future yet to come.
The end of the iPod era brought back a flood of memories. While I grew up using Apple IIe & Macintosh computers at school & friends’ houses, my family couldn’t really afford to buy a Mac for ourselves. Instead, I ended up building my own Windows computers over the years from spare or budget parts I was able to salvage.
I made do with what I was given.
I made the best of the situation.
But I always longed for what I thought I couldn’t have.
That kind of sums up my childhood, I guess.
My first MP3 player was called the “MPTrip”. Released in May 2000 & priced at around $100 USD, it was a typical CD player, offering 50-second antiskip protection, as well as random, shuffle and repeat playback modes… but there was one more thi… err, feature: it could play MP3 files burned on to CD-Rs.
That’s right! Up to 170 “MP3-formatted music files”, to be exact. This meant that I could keep my CDs on the shelf & just carry around a couple of burned discs with hundreds of songs. It was so cool! It was also, admittedly, quite clunky. The screen was teeny tiny, making it difficult to find a particular song. It definitely worked best just letting it play straight through! And it devoured batteries!
But it was mine. And I still think about it from time to time when I pop on one of those classic J-Pop albums of the era that I listened to on repeat until the AA batteries died.
Sadly, that MP3 player was lost in the great “cat pee” incident of the mid-aughts. I came home one day to find nearly everything in my room had been placed on the curb in rubbish bags.
Supposedly, the cat had peed on it all. Everything. All of my prized possessions carefully hidden away in boxes, out of sight & under the bed. All the things I hadn’t been given, but had managed to acquire on my own, despite what my mom or the world might think.
I wanted to cry myself to sleep that night, like I had so many nights, listening to my MPTrip. But it was gone. I felt betrayed. Ashamed. But I forged on.
And when I finally had money of my own, I was able to buy a replacement for myself: a 4th Generation iPod.
The iPod was just… cool! I remember the box it came in. It was shaped like a cube & incredibly colourful! The four main sides of the box were blue, yellow, pink & green. I always made sure the pink side of the box was facing front on the shelf in my room.
I remember walking to university with it, listening to the score of Dawson’s Creek as I waited for the train to go by. I remember loading it up with the latest Utada Hikaru CD that the exchange students had recommended.
I remember cranking up the volume & grinning ear to ear to the Buffy music soundtrack after my friend decided my new name should be “Kaylee”.
I remember dancing with Ikimonogakari & AKB48 down Boylston Street on the way to Japanese meetup, smiling up at the Apple Store where I had purchased my 2nd Mac: a MacBook Pro.
I remember long train rides with Sakamoto Maaya & James Taylor. Emotional evenings with ZONE, YUI & Michelle Branch. Trick or treating with Sailor Moon, all-night events with Momoiro Clover Z and 2 AM bike rides with one AirPod & Carly Rae Jepsen.
Because somewhere along the way, the iPod became an iPod Touch and the iPod Touch became an iPhone. I even went wireless after my headphones got tangled around a corner & took out the screen. My very first trip to the Shinsaibashi Table of Sadness™.
I still miss the headphone jack. I always will, even if I love my AirPods Pro & even if a USB-C iPhone would give me just one dongle instead of two.
That’s what’s amazing about people: there’s such a wide variety of us out there! Some prefer music on a big stereo system & some are happy with their phone speaker. Some want FLAC files, while others like vinyl or Minidisc. And some would simply prefer to listen to a podcast, thank you very much! And that’s OK!
But I worry about a world that starts telling people like me that the way we survive our lives is wrong. The world is hard enough to survive as it is, on top of being told to stay in our litter box… err, I mean, little box. That the way we’re trying to weather the storm of life is making others feel scared or uncomfortable when we just want to do our business & move on.
For me at least, when the world gets harsh (as it has been so often in the past few years), I like to tune everything out & listen to the songs I’ve collected along the way. Sometimes, the clouds part & the day is saved! And sometimes, the tears just fall on the pillow in complete darkness.
But those songs are more than just files to me. Unlike the vast ocean that is music streaming, they’re specific memories of the ports I’ve visited along the way. They’re poetry & words, helping to make sense of today and steer the ship towards a better tomorrow.
And while that 4th Gen iPod is gone, I kept an iPod Classic around. I’m recording on it right now, in fact! Maybe it’s the feel of the white EarPods cable on my cheeks? Maybe it’s the warmth of that Wolfson DAC? Maybe it’s just nostalgia?
But there’s something magical to me about that special box, the size of a deck of playing cards, that holds 18,000 hand-selected songs. My battle songs. The songs of my life.
1 thought on “Take the Click Wheel & Steer the Ship Towards a Better Tomorrow – by Kaylee Dayo”
Hi Kaylee. I’m so relieved to hear from you again. I was worried since we hadn’t heard from you in a couple years.
Your post is very well written and delivered – reads like a woeful poem. I am sad to hear what you’ve been through and I sincerely hope tomorrow is better for you.
We’re here if you ever want to talk.