I love functional beauty. The iPod click wheel is a thing of beauty. Apple got so many things right in the early 2000s, and the click wheel was arguably the biggest of all.

Chaim Gartenberg recently wrote:

“The click wheel was the pinnacle of iPod design….my favorite part of the click wheel is also the part that we’ve lost the most since we switched to touch-enabled devices: the ability to use it without looking at the screen. It’s a small thing, but a significant one. Today’s devices demand our constant attention: they’re almost impossible to use without it, in fact. Look away from your phone, and you’re aimlessly tapping a featureless glass slab with no landmarks or guides to light the way. As Steve Jobs pointed out when Apple first launched the iPhone, a device without buttons can have an infinite number of them. But they’re transitory; they only exist when you’re looking at them.

The click wheel is the polar opposite. Instead of an infinite array of buttons, the wheel gave you five, plus the dial, located in positions you’re always aware of. Raising volume, skipping a song, playing or pausing — these are all things you can do passively, without taking your iPod out of your pocket or lighting up the screen. It let you add music to your life without demanding that you give your life back to the iPod…..I still look fondly back to using my iPod while drifting off to sleep on long plane or bus rides, relaxing with my finicky music tastes without having to open my eyes and / or blind myself in the dark by lightning up the giant, glowing display.”

I miss that feeling of holding my iPod sometimes. That is great design. That is beauty.


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