Life After Death

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The week I started working at Certification Magazine (October 2006), I bought my first iPod. I was returning to working in the city after a couple years of commuting to a job in the suburbs, so my travel entertainment needed to change over from a car stereo to portable electronics (again). It was time to step up to an iPod; it seemed like the initial battery life issues I’d heard about had finally been resolved and the technology was mature enough to invest in it. Lugging dozens of CDs to work and attempting to switch discs in a Walkman while walking or riding the train was over.

I bought an 80 gig iPod for $400. True to form, I then set out to convince myself this had been a bad move by spending hours trolling online forums reading horror stories from people who’d bought an iPod, used it for a couple months and had it die and been unable to negotiate a replacement. For the first couple months I owned the thing I was obsessed with it breaking, I was sure it would happen soon. I’d ask people about the health of their iPods and realize they were much less concerned about it than I was. In a March 2007 column for Cert I wrote:

“When I received a couple of box sets from my mother weeks in advance of Christmas last year, I immediately opened them up and installed them on my iPod so I could have as much time as possible to enjoy them in that format. (For this same reason I gave my girlfriend, owner of an iPod Nano, a pair of Bose Triport-IE headphones weeks in advance of Christmas.) As I explained to my Mom in an e-mail: “Ah, death … of your iPod, the stark inevitability of life.”

But in the 19 months following the purchase, that iPod never did really fail in the way I’d anticipated it would: For reasons unrelated to my usage of it. At one point on a plane ride home from Tucson, Arizona, it stopped being able to turn off, completely draining the battery, but this was fixed simply by plugging it into iTunes and allowing it the program to fix a hardware bug.

Last month though, I left for work and went to turn my iPod on and it wouldn’t power up, it’d just display the Apple logo and die. This turned out to be a battery problem, which developed because I’d gotten seriously lax about letting the thing get a full charge, only ever allowing it on the USB cable to receive new content. Charging it for a full day did the trick.

I thought I’d cheated iPod death; I was beginning to think the thing would last so long it’d start to look ancient in comparison to newer models. But this morning my iPod finally broke, for real, and here’s what happened:

I dropped it.

It’d been dropped before. The second week I owned it I dropped it in a subway station, resulting in some scratching on its face but nothing in the way of failure. I went and bought a nice protective case. It’d been dropped a couple times since then but each time nothing happened; the case was pretty good (it has rubber edges).

But last night, I’d just put the new Lil Wayne album on it and was putting it on my stereo table to make sure I grabbed it on the way out this morning. I fumbled with it and it fell flat on its face. I picked it up and turned it on and it seemed everything was fine, but the next morning when I grabbed it I heard something shaking around inside. This is fine for an Atari 2800 controller but not an iPod. Sure enough, when I walked out the door and tried to shuffle it froze up.

I’d bought Apple Care a couple days after I first bought the iPod, and felt somewhat foolish in doing so at the time (it felt like paying $40 for an empty cardboard box). I even neglected to register it for almost a year. But today that move suddenly seemed extremely smart, wise, etc. I’d been told I’d need an appointment to go to the repair counter at the Apple store, so I called Apple and was served by a friendly representative who somehow made it seem cool and groovy to own a broken iPod.

My appointment was at 11:20, but when I arrived at that time I was met with my name five spots down on a list on a flat screen monitor. Sitting on that bench in the sunny Apple store on Michigan Avenue for a half hour, frustrated that it didn’t seem like I was going to be able to get my problem resolved and get back to the office within my lunch hour was somewhat bleak. But eventually I got to step up to the counter, hand a guy my broken iPod and have him hand me a refurbished one. It’s not new but it sure looks new (at least, it looks like what a ‘new’ iPod looked like back in October 2006). I even had to peel a layer of cellophane off it to start using it.

So … now … there’s the joyous task of reloading nearly 14,000 songs on my new-old iPod. My computer’s hard drive is significantly smaller than 80 gigs, so I had been deleting my libraries. I’ll probably start by reloading my most recent CD purchases, which at least will have the effect of shocking me into the present (I had become a habitual shuffler).

Most importantly, it’s finally happened. I’ve seen the death of my iPod and come out the other end intact. And the best part is it breaking was all my fault; there’s no need to quixotically curse the gods of Apple.

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Daniel Margolis


Daniel Margolis is a longtime professional writer and editor. Daniel was managing editor of Certification Magazine from 2006 to 2012.

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