This week’s photo are of my original iPod.
In 2001 Apple announced the iPod. It changed the world. A beautiful portable music player. This week Apple announced that the product has been discontinued after 21 years.
I was a web developer in the early days of the iPod, working in offices with real world humans. At the time I was not aware of autism and I had no idea that I could have ADHD because that’s the thing over-excited kids have. I was a neurodivergent person trying to fit into a neurotypical world. I did not enjoy the office experience.
I was so stressed by going to work that I was a “sweaty mess” from the walk from the car to the office. That made the anxiety worse. I never wanted to be part of the coffee / tea round so I could avoid having to do my round when it came to it. All those people to talk to and their drink details to remember. It was incredibly stressful. “Which cup is which? What if I get it wrong?”
The social side of work was a constant nightmare. I could code better than anyone at the companies I worked for and I had a strong belief in accessibility standards. I was good at the job. If I sensed the oncoming coffee round I’d probably hide in the loo to avoid my turn. All this made me feel like a failure. A broken person with too many problems to fit in. I loved coding but hated offices. What could be done? I spoke to my GP and got an appointment with a NHS psychiatrist.
They were nice to work with. We discussed the Matrix and how I needed to let fear, doubt and disbelief go. I’m still working on that. I’ve partially freed my mind but I still don’t know kung fu. One of the things we discussed was trying to focus while at work. I found it almost impossible not to be overloaded by people walking around, fidgeting, and talking. This was made more stressful by my friends at the time and my dad also doing the same thing. There was no escape from this issue. It would get so bad that one day I nearly walked into oncoming traffic because I could not handle the world. This happened months after therapy. For now I was trying to block out these distractions by sheer force of will.
Things may have been different if I had known I was autistic and possibly also had ADHD. Instead of suggesting that I focus on the sound of a ticking clock instead of the talking and fidgeting we could have looked at medication or some remote working situation. I shouldn’t dwell on the past too much. If they diagnosed me as having ADHD and found a way to help maybe I would never have become a photographer?
In an act of workplace defiance I bought myself an iPod to try and help with the issue. I had no idea whether it was ok to use headphones at work as no-one else was using them. I simply couldn’t cope anymore. I wanted to do the job and in order to do that I had to block out the office as much as I could. I got an iPod.
- 4th Generation ClickWheel model
- 40 GB (10,000 songs)
- 4,200 RPM spinning hard disk
- Classic Apple white headphones
- Charging dock
This was my first Apple product. I was always fascinated by their computers but they were rare. I didn’t know of anyone who had one to play with. I would watch Macworld events and set my Windows XP interface up to look like Mac OS X. Buying an iPod was my first step into that world. I remember unboxing it just as I do unboxing my first camera. Everything about the product was delightful and beautiful.
I used my iPod every day. I’d code and listen to music in my own world. I could function. The iPod saved me… is what I would say if I wrote inspiration wellness pieces. It didn’t save me. It helped me, but it didn’t save me. Having my own music to listen to really helped block out office conversation and random sounds. Unfortunately my brain is always searching for annoyances. Instead of hearing distractions I would instead focus ones I could feel through my desk. While I was desperately trying to focus on my music and code I could feel the vibration of someone in the office fidgeting through my desk and keyboard. Months later after constant unending torture from sensory overload at home, work and with friends I almost stepped into oncoming traffic because I wanted out. The iPod had helped, a little, but it didn’t save me.
As I sit here today looking at my old iPod with it’s great grandchild iPod touch behind it listening to music streaming over Apple Music on my iPhone 13 with Apple AirPods Pro earbuds on I feel a slight connection to that old iPod. 18 years ago I had an idea that I could use a portable music player and some headphones to block out the world and focus. Today that is exactly what I do with my Apple products. The iPod is with me today. I can see it in the iPhone design and the AirPods Pro design. That idea is perfected today in these devices. The AirPods Pro, which I recently reviewed, are wireless, unobtrusive with great noise cancellation and wonderful sound quality that helps me to stim while working instead of be constantly on edge pushing me ever closer to depression and darker thoughts.
Thank you iPod. You helped then and your spirit continues to help today.