Ode to the Dellpod

The Dell Digital Jukebox That Just Keeps on Giving

I’m of the age that I grew up right on the cusp of the cassette to CD player transition and have since seen digital music players replace the CD player. In my life I have owned one (that’s right, just one) digital music player. When I received it as a birthday gift in 2002, it was nothing short of the beginning of a beautiful friendship. One that has continued right on into the next decade.

Am I talking about an iPod? Of course not. Anyone who has ever purchased one of Apple’s music players will tell you that a long shelf life isn’t exactly one of its lauded features. More recent versions are more reliable than their original predecessors though. No, I’m talking about the original Dell Digital Jukebox (Dell DJ), affectionately named the ‘Dellpod” by a friend of mine who also was a proud owner.

Most of you probably never heard of the Dellpod. It came and went fairly quickly. It met with some success but soon was overwhelmed in the market by Apple and its juggernaut of a device. After going through a slimmer variation and even a “pocket dj” version the Dellpod disappeared from the market. Support for existing devices remained pretty sparse with some firmware updates placed online, but those stopped in 2006 when Dell announced the full discontinuation of the device.

It’s now 2010 and my Dellpod is still going strong, despite being a first generation model. If that’s not product quality then I don’t know what is. How many things do you still have from 2002, much less electronics?

I know the iPod is far superior, even back in those days. To try and argue anything less than that would be moronic. My Dellpod is huge, thicker than my Blackberry, heavy and made out of metal. It has a simple interface, no bells or whistles. It uses a scroll wheel to navigate. There’s no album art or cool menus just a simple blue LED backlight and black text. It is about as utilitarian as music players gets. At 15 GB it’s remarkably underpowered for a digital music player (though back in 2002, it cost $200). There’s even a noticeable click and whirring sound when you turn it on. Despite its short comings, I would never trade it for any other device in the world, and at seven plus years of use, I’ve certainly got my money’s worth.

My friend has been there for me through thick and thin. I’ve left him in the car in sub-zero temperatures and when the thermometer neared 100, and yet he keeps on going.

He was there with me, driving home from high school, listening to sappy love songs and day dreaming about that girl in the third row of my math class.

He followed me to college, and has been there for road trips, treks through rain and snow, long train rides crammed into the aisle during the holidays, and all night study sessions trying to get that tax project finished. Through the best and worst of times, my Dellpod is always right beside me.

And two summers ago, when I boarded a plane for the first time in 14 years (I have an abject fear of flying and heights) my Dellpod was there to soothe my fears with a steady stream of feel good tunes. That is, until he thought it would be funny to play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan mid-flight. Truth be told, he can be a cheeky bastard at times, but I love him all the same.

I don’t use him as much as I used to. Sometimes he sits in a desk drawer or a bag for months on end without so much as a thought from me. Yet every time I need him, he clicks on gleefully the same way he did the day I got him.

One day, he won’t turn on. Eventually, time and use will take its toll. As dumb as it might sound, that will be a sad day for me. I’ll have to find a replacement; hopefully one that works even half as well as my Dellpod has over the years.

For anyone who has an old music player, computer, or video game console that has survived to this day, you probably have similar memories. New technology is a great and wonderful thing, but sometimes we shouldn’t be so quick to cast aside the electronics of yester year just because they lacks the glitz and glamour of what’s “new”. Quality and reliability are all we can really ask for, everything else is just a bonus. In the end, there’s nothing else to say to my faithful little friend except, rock on.