Oh, the name lives on for now, attached to a suite of weird late-generation devices -- the Shuffle, the Nano, the Touch -- but when the Apple Store came back online Tuesday after going dark for the company's new-product launch, the last vestige of its original hard-drive click-wheel iPod was no longer for sale.
Over the years I've probably owned six iPods, not counting those we bought for the kids. I still have three -- an original 1-gigabyte flash-memory Shuffle, which no longer works; and an 80-gig fifth-generation model and 160-gig Classic, which do.
Over time, it must be said, Apple signaled its increasing contempt for the device that launched its reputation for first-class human-factor engineering in the consumer market. By 2010, when the iPod had gone more than a year without a capacity or design upgrade, I observed that the newly dubbed Classic was being treated as a stepchild. "It doesn't have the big screen of the iPod Touch, or the game-playing capability, or digital cameras or Wi-Fi antenna," I wrote. "All it's got is roominess, 160 gigabytes worth."
Music collectors lamented Apple's move to less-capacious multimedia phones, pads and other units, even though Steve Jobs had pitched the original iPod as a breakthrough "that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go." (See the accompanying video of his 2001 product launch.) Jobs perceived that when travelers discovered they didn't have cassettes with them that they wanted to hear on their Walkmen, they wouldn't listen to anything at all. He thought that was a shame, so he insisted that the iPod's capacity be immense.
Eventually, however, Apple's business model evolved, and the iPod evolved with it. Originally it was a repository for music its owner had acquired elsewhere, either in CD form or (usually illegally) from a file-sharing service such as Napster -- Apple didn't sell music at the time.
The iPod had such a profound impact on the way many of us listen to music that it seems to have been around forever. So it's a bit of a shock to realize that that introductory launch hosted by Jobs took place the month after 9/11.