Classic iPod Hackers Say There’s No Better Way to Listen to Music

Apple may have discontinued the last of the click-wheel iPods years ago, but a large community of iPod modders resurrects them for their sound and nostalgia

Melanie Ehrenkranz
OneZero
Published in
6 min readMar 2, 2020

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Illustration: Simoul Alva

MManuel Mantecon, who goes by Pichi, has several boxes stacked in his bathroom filled with iPod parts. When it’s time to fix one up for a customer, he takes the boxes down, including one shaped like a sewing kit that he refers to as his “iPod toolbox,” and refurbishes used iPods out of his bathroom in North Carolina. He works out of his bathroom because it’s a lot of moving parts, and he tends to leave a bit of a mess. “I know it sounds a little crazy, but it keeps everything out of sight,” Pichi said.

Pichi, 50, is currently out of the workforce due to multiple sclerosis but enjoys fixing up the classic Apple music players for people around the world, who find him through word of mouth or Reddit forums. In the last six or seven years, he estimates that he’s reconstructed hundreds of iPods.

Apple may have discontinued the last of the click-wheel iPods years ago, but Pichi is part of a growing community of tinkerers giving the devices new life. It’s not just for nostalgia (though that’s part of it): iPod modders say they earnestly view the devices, with a few modern tweaks, as a superior way to listen to music. That this elite audio quality is packaged in a device that is also dear to their heart makes it even better.

“The iPod is a pure device,” says Sean Kirvin, 28. “When using an iPod all you can do is listen to music. On the surface it may seem restrictive, in reality it frees you.” Photo: Sean Kirvin

The more popular modifications are relatively simple: updates like adding more storage or battery life, or installing firmware that allows for customization of the user interface or downloading games outside of Apple’s ecosystem. Few iPod modders are injecting the music players with wild features or stark new aesthetics.

Pichi said that he’s not that technical or “geeky” but got into iPod modding after his own iPod Classic’s battery died. He couldn’t find anyone to replace it for an affordable cost and felt like he was getting ripped off, so he figured he could do it himself. “I…

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