How the original iPod got me during the war
I carried a Sig Sauer on my hip and an iPod in my pocket, but I was only allowed to use the pistol while I watched.
It was March 2003. The second gen iPod was already launched, but most of us were still rocking the first gens because that's what they sold at the Navy Exchange back home and on the ship.
My position, that night, was like a gate guard. The squadron I worked in was based aboard the USS Nimitz and we enjoyed our last night at Pearl Harbor before heading for the Persian Gulf.
It was the responsibility of my fellow guards and I to verify the identity of all who were on board the ship, ensuring good order and control, and keeping track of her baggage. -everyone. Needless to say, we took a look at everything that thousands of sailors bought at the last minute before we left.
And, from where I was standing, it's clear that we must have bought out the island's iPod supply. Every third person who walked through the gate seemed to have an iPod in their hands. I will never forget the sight of so many white wires hanging under the chin of the sailors that night.
The next day we went to the Gulf to go to war. The USS Nimitz and their crew would do more than 6,500 combat missions before seeing the U.S. coast again.
I was working out in one of the ship's gyms a few months after we reached Persian Gulf when I noticed almost everyone in the room wore the same distinctive white pillows. It made me feel like I was still connected to the zeitgeist technology that was happening back home.
Some senior bosses and career executives still had their “use phones”, usually some high-end studio headphones that they would attach to a portable CD player. We would watch them swap CDs after about 45 minutes or an hour as Luddites from a bygone world. It seemed barbaric.
Life on a boat is tough. And living with 6,000 people means you don't get to blow up your music. Back in 2003 there were no streaming stations and you certainly did not download MP3s on the ship's network. And that meant that if you were used at sea for just 8 months, as we were, you would listen to any music that you brought with you all that time.
I felt sorry for those old trainers with a dozen CDs taking a valuable place in their places. My first gen iPod held about 700 songs or two (Apple said 1,000 but I listened to a lot of underground hip hop and lo-fi beats at the time so I had thousands changing). And it was small enough that I could get away with holding it in my pocket while I was in the uniform.
The first thing I did when I went off the watch that night back in Pearl Harbor was turn on my iPod and plug in my headphones. And the last thing I did was set foot back on American soil, when we finally got home, take them out.