Delusions of Grandeur • R.D. Rhyne

August 31, 2020

The Sunday Letter

My friend Daniel started writing a weekly newsletter back in March. The thought of a newsletter has never grabbed me, since I barely publish enough on this site as it is. However, I really enjoy Daniel’s process for writing his newsletter.

During the week Daniel thinks of a prompt (or theme) for the week. Then over the weekend, he sets a timer and writes for an hour. He’s often remarked how the result doesn’t always turn out how he thought when he started. It’s about where the writing takes him.

I like the discipline, but I’m still not crazy about the idea of a separate newsletter. Thus, The Sunday Letter is born.

Why Sunday you might ask? After all, I didn’t publish this until Monday. The reason is because Sunday is when I wrote it, and when I plan to write it in the future. And the point of this letter is to write it.

There’s no real format. I’ll write whatever comes to mind, and there may be a collection of links that I want to discuss. Who knows, this might be dumb.

I’ve been thinking recently about old technology that is still useful today. I wear mechanical wristwatches that are inaccurate by today’s standards, yet perfectly capable of telling me when it’s time for a meeting or to break for lunch.

A few weeks ago, I received a delightful gift from a friend. Earlier we had been discussing our favorite Apple hardware from years past, and the fifth generation iPod came up. It’s a personal favorite of mine. Sleek and compact. The best implementation of the iPod’s signature wheel control. It could play games, and movies & TV shows.

My friend had a fifth generation U2 model in mint condition and hoped I’d give it a new home. I happily obliged his generosity, along with a universal dock that included a 30-pin cable[1].

When I got home, I plugged the dock into my Mac and slotted the iPod into it. To my surprise, the Music app began to sync all of my non-Apple Music tracks which were already downloaded onto the Mac. While it was syncing, I opened my headphone drawer and pulled out one of my favorite pairs: the Bang & Olufsen H6 headphones.

The H6 headphones are wired, which became inconvenient about the same time wireless headphones developed satisfying enough audio quality. I even wrote a review about the Bose headphones which replaced the H6s as my daily drivers.

The experience of the iPod with the H6 headphones was a wonderful trip down memory lane.

When I navigated into the Music sub-menu, there was nothing but my music. The click wheel was fast and simple to browse my large library of music. And every selection was acknowledged by a satisfying hardware actuation.

Once a track started, I was greeted by a familiar low hiss. Treble was crisp. And the entire dynamic range filled my ears. Music sounded more alive than it had for years.

This was exactly the respite I needed after months of quarantine. My head buzzed and my heart swelled as five minutes turned into twenty. I became lost in music.

Since that evening, I went in search of the 2nd generation of the B&O H6 headphones which B&O no longer sells. I found them cheap from an Amazon affiliate merchant and they live up to the high praise reviewers gave them four years ago. I also found an iPod classic (160 GB) in mint condition[2] on eBay for a pittance.

Listening to music on a decade old iPod through a wire may seem anachronistic in 2020, but it begs the question: Do I really need a general purpose computer to listen to music?

The iPod is purpose-built to play music. Its interface is designed for flipping through songs and albums. The display is no larger than it needs to be, and the battery doesn’t need to be recharged for a week. All this in a package that makes my iPhone 11 Pro feel like a brick by comparison.

An iPod just plays music[3]—and I think it’s better at playing music than any other device I own. I’ve enjoyed using an iPod again the same way I enjoy setting the time on my mechanical watches each morning.

They’re both old, but still useful to me today.

This week's links:

  • Marco Arment’s review of the 2nd generation H6 headphones. I still use my wireless headphones for WebEx meetings and FaceTime. For music, there are no finer headphones than these. They sound great connected to my iPod and my iPhone. Bonus: there’s nothing to charge.
  • Airlink Bluetooth Adapter. I bought this dingus a few years ago. It works reasonably well to convert my H6s into bluetooth headphones. It affects the quality modestly, but I only notice it in direct comparisons. Also, I never clip this thing to my shirt like the photos show, I just slip it into my pocket.
  • The reMarkable 2. Speaking of dedicated devices, I pre-ordered the reMarkable 2 last week. I’ve always been fascinated by the potential of e-ink. Drawing tablets based on e-ink seem to becoming more mainstream and the reMarkable is the best of the lot. Mine doesn’t ship until November, but I’m excited to give it a try.

  1. I joked that I wasn’t sure if I still had any thirty-pin connectors. The universal dock was also in mint condition. ↩︎

  2. The merchant had replaced the chrome back panel and the screen. The iPod is practically brand new. ↩︎

  3. While it can play movies, games, and sync contacts & calendars, the iPhone is much better suited for these tasks. ↩︎