Recently I’ve been on a personal quest to incorporate more tactile and dumb tech in my everyday (aside: if only it was just as easy to get a himbo boyfriend too!). I have no idea if it’s age or nostalgia, but I’m becoming more appreciative of technology that I don’t have to connect to the internet to just function, and that responds back at me if I jab at it.
This year I finally made the leap and switched to a new phone. This was not entirely out of choice; it was because a lot of apps were starting to depreciate on my nearly-decade-old iPhone 6 Plus – mostly apps that I use for the dayjob and day-to-day bureauracies. It was starting to show its age too (or maybe I just need to clear the Photos app since that’s the one eating up the most space; 13,000 pics and videos!). Otherwise, it is still working perfectly, especially with a replaced screen and battery.
Anyway, with the removal of the work/bureaucratic apps and the transfer of the SIM card, the 6 Plus has now retired into the role of a semi-dummy phone: reserved for online contact and the use of whatever apps still function on that device. There is no mobile data attached unless I choose to link it to a hotspot or Wi-Fi connection. Almost nothing in that phone is serious – I don’t need to bring it when I go out, but it’s good to have it because that’s where Whatsapp, Messenger, LINE and emails are, as well as some notes. The way I treat the 6 Plus, it’s like a notebook that has the ability to send and keep messages. This is in contrast to the new phone, the Serious Phone, which is for realtime Official things like offline contact, dayjob, bureaucratic apps and posting on social media (see below).
Even then, the 6 Plus is still not satisfactorily dummy enough for me, only because with Wi-Fi access I am still able to browse social media. I could delete those apps now, but I actually like having the severely outdated and calcified versions of Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr: they somehow show way less ads and algorithmic meddling. They are not without their glitches though. Twitter doesn’t load all the tweets, Instagram Stories forcefully zoom past, and Tumblr is a bit old. All of them have image uploading issues.
In the end, my social media use hasn’t been negatively impacted – in the sense that the time that could potentially be wasted due to my enjoyment from the lack of ads-pushing is balanced out by the erratic code. But the presence of those apps on my semi-dummy phone is still an environmental risk.
When in comes to tech, I am not the type to give up something until it’s totally broke. So what I desire with regards to the social media apps is the code becoming so irreversibly and intolerably erratic that finally, they are confirmed depreciated, just like the dayjob apps. Only when that happens my 6 Plus will become satisfactorily dummy.
I was remembering my cherished iPod Shuffle, a gift from my uncle’s ex. It was a small thing, with no hardware interface other than the circle wheel and no wireless capabilities, but I took it everywhere for years, through high school and college. It was perfect for situations when I had to be totally offline; studying, travelling, relaxing. Then it died in a washing machine accident.
Lately I have been using the 6 Plus as a podcast and music player that I bring around the house. But the presence of the other apps bothers me. Or rather, the fact that 6 Plus is not (yet) severely limited into being a portable music player bothers me.
I wanted my iPod Shuffle back. I wanted a device that’s made for NOTHING except music and podcasts. Maybe radio. I wanted a device whose storage is only dedicated to music and not sharing space or battery life with the other things. Something that didn’t need a cloud to access.
Basically, I wanted a proper portable music player.
So I got a secondhand iPod Classic from a jock. Thanks to my new best friend, FB Marketplace.*
*I never appreciated how amazing Marketplace is until now. You are telling me I can buy all these old things I like for cheap? I could actually get a backup iPhone 6 Plus (or whatever was the last model before the headphone jack disappeared) and be set for life.
I’ve never owned anything like this iPod before – my only portable music players were the CD Walkman and the dearly-missed iPod Shuffle, both screenless objects.
The iPod Classic has a screen, but it’s not a touchscreen. You control things by jabbing at the circle wheel buttons. Which is perfect.
I’ve become obsessed with anything that has tactile buttons. Something about the click-clack produced by pressing a finger at a button face scratches a nostalgic and primal urge in my brain. This is why I’ve gotten a more haptic keyboard and a desktop mouse, both of which have louder noises and deeper sinks; like I can actually feel my fingers pushing down the keys.
I’ve been using the iPod for almost a month now. It’s got nearly the entire discography of Josh Groban (even the rare songs), a few albums I bought long ago in iTunes, and 4 hours worth of Animal Crossing hourly music. My next plan for it is the archival of my Spotify playlists, including the epic 12-hours-long instrumentals TWIDI playlist. And the reintroduction of the iPod Shuffle playlist whenever I visit KL and have access again to my hard drives and CD collection.
(I might even keep a movie or two in there? Imagine having the Prince of Egypt or The Fall in that tiny screen)
It’s not an addition to my life I regret. I enjoy that I can have this when I need to lock myself down from any online distractions and read. Which is such a simple joy that is wanting in the current technological landscape, where it appears that everybody and everything wants you to ‘log in, make an account, go online 24/7 or you won’t have access to this function’.
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur
French Book Tour, January 2024