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Consuming content like it's the 90s (shanedowling.com)
44 points by aftergibson on Feb 9, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

I recently did the same thing, although I picked up a 6th gen iPod Classic. A few things I've noticed:

1. Battery life is insane, even though this thing is more than 10 years old. I've always laughed off complaints about phone/smart watch battery life because charging daily doesn't seem like a chore but it is really nice have a battery that will last a week or more.

2. Syncing is so slow (I'd forgotten how slow) but not too much of a frustration given I'm on a computer all day anyway.

3. Having a device without the internet is really nice. No distractions other than the 3 arcade games on the device which are a trip down memory lane.

4. The UI is shockingly laggy. Scrolling with the click wheel stutter a lot as it tries to read from the HDD. Maybe I have a bad device? I'm not sure as I always had flash iPod's in the past.

5. iTunes still exists and as I've built up a 'large' library through it over the years I still use it - however Apple isn't selling their lossless or Atmos content through it. The latter doesn't matter much but it's a shame I can't get the lossless tracks I can get through Apple Music.

6. EarPods SUCK. I bought a pair just to get the full iPod experience. I use a range of headphones but mostly use AirPod Pro's these days. EarPods sound tinny, fall out and are just generally bad. Weirdly, I used to really like them but I guess things have gotten much better in the mass market headphone scene over the last decade.

7. Shuffle mode is fantastic. Because you've paid money for all the songs on the device instead of just adding everything you have a passing interest in to your library (because why not?) it's just an endless playlist of songs I know I like.

There’s pretty easy ways of flashmodding the iPod if you want to swap the drive. DankPods on YouTube has really good videos.

I wonder if the lag has something to do with all the extra fancy graphics in the 6th gen OS. I haven’t thought to check, but I doubt it has a much faster chip as compared to a 5th gen (and I know it has a smaller maximum shuffle limit)

I have been considering swapping the drive, thanks for the channel recommendation. Also tempted to get a 5th gen Nano instead. Turns out I don't need a 160GB drive as my purchased music library is much smaller than I remembered and I always loved my 5th gen Nano.

The nanos are persnickety because it's so hard (many times impossible) to replace the battery, and they start to swell after a lot of use. Definitely inspect it and make sure the battery is good before making a purchase.

Hard disagree on 6.

I bought my first pair of AirPod Pros a few weeks ago after being a diehard EarPods users for a nearly decade. I still use my EarPods while biking, but now use the the AirPods for everything else.

Obviously, they can't compete on features like ANC, but I think the EarPods sound quality is superior and the controller is more reliable than using "Hey Siri" on the AirPods. Also, I guess we have different ear canals, because neither set falls out of my ears.

Plus, EarPods are freaking indestructible. Mine look like hell, have been through hundreds of hours-long summer rides in high humidity, soaked in sweat and just as many winter rides in subfreezing temperatures, and they are still going strong. No matter how well I take care of my AirPods (which cost 10X the price), I can only expect to get two or three years out of them.

The biggest problem of EarPods is that when it doesn't fit the ear canal, it *really* doesn't fit. There's no way to sort of make it stay inside; it just slides out like a skateboard. I have such ears, and earpods are simply useless to me.

The cable is also quite fragile in my experience. The material gets sticky after a few years and it sometimes frays.

On the other hand, I have a pair of UE that has gone through washing machine and still going strong after 7 years.

Agree on EarPods being indestructible. I have a few very old pairs still working. Until I got the AirPods I always used the EarPod style headphones (and hated in ears). Maybe I've got used to that and prefer it now and that's distorting my opinion on the EarPods a bit. I was genuinely surprised at the 'lower' (to my ears) quality when I started using them again. It was unexpected.

I've gotten on a private tracker for music and can download awesome lossless files. I put them on a server and listen with the Play:Sub app. Been really enjoying curating my own music and not using awful monopoly apps. I may also buy an iPod too, why not.

I could do that but I stopped pirating music as soon as I got my first job. No judgement but I can't justify pirating something I can afford to pay for. I could get the higher quality tracks ripping CD's or buying elsewhere but getting most of my music through iTunes means I have about 15 years of purchases available to re-download on any of my devices without having to worry about personal backups. It's quite nice.

I guess it's paying Apple or some other monopolist for the music that I really can't stand. I buy vinyl albums, though obviously not for everything I download. And I get some things on Band Camp, because you actually just get the music. But I feel you.

Ad 6 - no, iPod headphones were always bad. Even back then in the 2000s, they were already better headphones available.

Oh yeah I'm sure but my expectations were much lower then so they never felt like a problem to me. You could always get good headphones but EarPods were decent at the time in my experience compared with other mass market/highly popular headphones (e.g the ones you got with other mp3 players or phones at the time).

Yeah, the older iPod headphones were even worse comfort-wise, especially after the rubber around the speaker grill started to break down. I had several pairs that I kept for way too long.

If you're feeling brave, you can replace your iPod's hard drive with an SSD

I’m probably overreacting to it, but the word “content” is just so empty and soulless and I hate it. In the ‘90s we called it “listening to music”.

I have this reaction as well. "Content" is to music and art as "nutrient slurry" is to food.

Can we add "consumer" to that list, too? When I buy something, I am a customer, and I'd like to be referred to as such.

I still listen to music by playing mp3 files locally (on my laptop, phone, ipod).

My iPod shuffle is still working... but I'm looking for a decent replacement and I couldn't find any (the Victure mp3 player displayed in the post looks bulky and I'm not sure if the clip is good enough if you use it while running/doing sports)

I've been using a Sansa Clip for a number of years.

I've used my sansa clip since, 2009? It just works. It works in the rain, in my woodshop, in the basement, on a plane, everywhere. The battery takes a couple hours to charge, and lasts for weeks.

And you can load so many songs on it that the shuffle feature is just as good as a streaming service.

I've got an e260 with RockBox that I've had since new. They were (and are still) excellent mp3 players! Still use it sometimes but not as much now that I have all my mp3s on my phone. It uses the same 30-pin connector as the iPod, but it fits backwards and the connections are different.

Same size: Coconise MP3 player, USB-C, simple interface with bluetooth that works. Comes with a SD card of the advertised size that you can replace.


It's limited to 128kbs music files, but having a bluetooth that works flawlessly is more important to me.

I use a standard Android phone, but my go to app for playing music and podcasts is Musicolet, which is a purely local player for MP3 files, that has had every feature I needed.

Maybe something that can play opus or other more modern codecs would be nice too

One of the things about 90s consumption was that the formats were generally not easy to save and carry. You could program a VCR to record a show pretty easily but radio shows would require specialized equipment if you were not there to hit "record". Tivo didn't come out until 1999, so for the most part you were either religious about recording a show or you planned to catch it at the time it was on.

One advantage to the pre-storage era was that most people had the same experience from the day before, so when you ran into them you could talk about the episode that just ran. Now it feels like we have a more isolated experience and very different schedules.

I have also thought about this. We use to have limited tv channels and limited radio stations. On any given day, there was a greater possibility that you shared an experience with your work colleague, your neighbor, or even a stranger. We shared more common culture.

Not that I'm pining for "the good ol' days". The internet has facilitated access to a flood of content. I have found great music that would never have been played on the radio. I also realize that no one else in my physical vicinity has or will listen to my favored musicians. Same for tv shows. I think the last common culture most people shared was Game of Thrones.

I do think this makes us more isolated from each other.

If my music was in an ipod it wouldn't randomly decide the songs are no longer available offline just as the plane's cabin door was closing like certain other green themed streaming music services.

Those green themed streaming music services usually have a download feature, though, so you can play songs offline. I've used it plenty of times when flying.

When I use the download feature it randomly it will still refuse to play when offline. The playlist shows in my "downloaded" list yet all the songs are greyed out.

Thankfully in the current incarnation of this bug I can go online for a few seconds and offline again and it will then work. The original bug used to wipe the music from the device, hello 3 GB download over airport wifi.

The "community" is full of similar reports and they don't seem to care.

I've had that happen occasionally, but it's happened to me less as of late. But it doesn't surprise me that it's a problem the company doesn't take seriously. That seems to be the standard response of tech companies; don't actually take feedback from customers or at least acknowledge their complaints.

And that's why all my music is on my fileserver and via that on my ipods.

I don't like how media propaganda has managed to get people to consider themselves just "content consumers".

Careful what you call yourself, you'll start to believe it.

I'll always hold that we peaked technologically as a civilization (in terms of technology serving humans, and not the other way around) around 1997. We had everything modern; e-mail, the web, instant messaging, cell phones, SMS, video chat, digital cameras, MP3 players, video games, etc. but none of the insane dystopic social media driven algorithmically controlled corporate hellscape nightmare we have today.

In the first Matrix movie, Morpheus (I think?) says something to the effect of, 'The machines created a program designed to simulate the height of human civilization'. The year 1999. I remember thinking it was laughable then, but now …

...the "pod" in "podcast" stands for "iPod".

Podcasts were originally made for iPod.

The etymology is more interesting than I expected. I would have expected Apple to coin it as a derivation of 'netcast' but apparently not[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast#Etymology

Apple did not coin the term.

For a time they wanted to sue people for using it, but they changed their mind I guess. (And by now it has become too generic.)

But they attacked the original podcast software - iPodder - for using "iPod" in the software name.

Not sure how many people had players and media capable of audio-book length in the 90s.. They used to come on compact cassttes, multiple of them..

Consuming media in the 90s is more about watching flow tv, reading books and magazines and listening to music on physical media.

Yeah, for music I was still using cassettes until the very tail end of the 90s. Music CDs (including burned MP3 CDs) from maybe '98 to '05. I wasn't part of the Apple ecosystem at the time and wasn't made of money so didn't have an iPod, which also seemed like a weird thing to spend money on in a world without AUX inputs in cars, but with CD players in cars. Using a digital music player in the car meant breaking out those tape adapter things, for most people. Or short-range FM transmitter. If I wasn't in the car, I was close enough to a computer to use that, or I was outside (the idea of listening to music while doing outdoor stuff was totally unappealing to me), so I'm not even sure what I'd have done with an iPod.

Shit, if I didn't need a smartphone for all kinds of other reasons I'd probably still just be using CDs, now that I think about it. Especially now that burners are dirt-cheap and draw power over USB.

Minidisc is 90’s (though nobody really had these) but mp3 and iPod were firmly 00’s.

MP3 became popular in the 90s, but the way to consume it at that time was using WinAmp or similar on your PC. Although the first flash-based mobile MP3 players were released in 1997 - the I-had-never-heard-of-it Saehan MPMan (https://historictech.com/product/saehan-mpman-f-10-worlds-1s...), they didn't look anything like the player in the picture. The iPod was released in October 2001, and the one from the picture is from 2007.

Yeah, I think of Minidisc as being popular for recording in the 90's, not consuming. MP3 were happening in the late 90's (the first Winamp release was in '97, Napster in '99) but again only for a select tech/university crowd. I don't think there were any consumer handheld devices capable of playing them.

EDIT: A better source on the topic than my memory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_media_player#The_MP3_...

The only people I know who used Minidiscs for consuming definitely had a hipster vibe going on — thinking of a guy who also DJed and wore studio headphones everywhere — rather than something most people did.

On the music nostalgia point, I jumped on Cox's first cable modem deployment in San Diego in early 1998. That was awesome by the standards of the time: I went from a 56k dialup connection to 10Mb _bidirectional_ and they didn't filter inbound ports so you could run your own HTTP, SMTP, etc. services. Everything was great — and then about a year later Napster launched and the entire network crawled to a halt as people were just downloading crazy amounts of MP3s and DVD rips (I had a coworker who was representative: he downloaded _everything_, even music he didn't like, just because he could). That quickly lead to inbound port filtering and aggressive throttling. It took until ~2013 before I again lived somewhere where I could upload at 10Mbps or better.

> It took until ~2013 before I again lived somewhere where I could upload at 10Mbps or better.

Here we are in 2022, and my Comcast cable connection advertises 8Mbps and actually gives less than 5.

My experience a decade ago was so Comcastic that when we moved to a new city I went with 16/8Mbps DSL rather than deal with them again. That was consistently faster than my “up to” 40-something/15Mbps Comcast package had been.

90s/00s was also the era of the MP3 CDROM player. 700MB of Mp3s! Just don't walk while you're playing it ...

I experimented around using an old iPod for podcasts, but the one thing I like about this modern world and that I missed during such experiments is the easiness of inter-device synchronization. There exists several solutions on Linux that will sync podcasts to an iPod as well as sync some data through gPodder.net. However unfortunately not many other outside this ecosystem can use this service for synchronization (even some of the more modern Linux apps don't!). If at least Overcast were to support gPodder at some point, that would fix it all for me.

Tangentially: love to see the Dreamcast Junkyard podcast in one of these images. The community around the Dreamcast is small but passionate, and the Junkyard is a big part of it.

Definitely, when I managed to get my old dreamcast back online after 20 years it felt great! Live stats right now: https://dreamcast.online/now/ (Small and passionate is dead right).

...... why not just have a cheap smartphone with no sim card and a big microsd?

For me at least: I cannot go for a run or do sports with a smartphone attached to my arm or in my pocket. It's just too uncomfortable.

Some of the Samsung Galaxy Watch models support downloading tracks from Spotify directly to the watch for offline listening FWIW. I do it because like you I find running with a phone a bit of a pain.

Well, in the first place we were listening to radio in 90s, not podcast(RSS 0.91 is 1999).

Regarding Minidisk: Back then, you could speed-transfer digital files from a computer to the recorder (I doubt that there's still support for this) and there was also a long play mode (with suitable quality for podcasts). Especially the Sony device in the image had both of these features, mind the "Net MD" series and "MDLP" logos.

So it would have been suitable in the '90s, but with manuals and supporting software lost it's a questionable effort in the 2020s.

You can still get software to do this. I think there's even an election app (!) for that. lol

Another option is a smartwatch. The screen isn't big enough to read much and notifications can be turned off. It's always with you and even has bluetooth, so no more wires.

Can one use a smartwatch to listen music without having to carry around the corresponding smartphone? If so, could you recommend one?

Yeah an Apple Watch with LTE. Not sure if LTE is required, but needed for streaming. Could probably store data on watch before heading out. Need Bluetooth headphones. Battery life is ok.

LTE is not required. I use my non-cellular Apple Watch on runs and listen to either music or audiobooks. You sync your Apple Music music to the watch via the iPhone's Watch app. Audiobooks are similar, but since most of mine were from Audible I use their app to sync to the watch.

I have Garmin Fenix 6s pro and this variant has 32gb that you can use to store music. It's a nice watch, but the ergonomics of the buttons are not great compared to touch sensitive watches. It will do what you want though, and I love it for tracking my swimming laps!

Apple watch can save a few MP3s. My really old one can save at least a couple of albums and I never carry my phone with me. The watch connects to bluetooth headphones.

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