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by Jeff Gomez
In a New Yorker cartoon from 2006, a distraught-looking young man stands near the control panel of a crowded elevator, his hands near the glowing buttons representing the elevator’s floors. Turning to his fellow passengers, he says, “I’m sorry, I think I just pushed ‘shuffle.’” This cartoon wouldn’t have made much sense before the iPod’s ascendance as the ubiquitous way to listen to portable music—not to mention, for a new generation, pretty much the only way to listen to music.
In the same way that Napster did, Apple’s device changed the way millions listen to music. More interestingly, it altered how people buy and even think about music. Just as we now see the word shuffle in a new light, the word download has connotations it didn’t have ten years ago. At the same time, these new zeitgeist terms are replacing phrases and words such as “record store.” For the generation coming of age in the new millennium—let’s call them Generation Download—all of this is normal.
While every group besides this new generation is talking endlessly about paradigm shifts, changing habits, and new memes, for these kids it’s not just business as usual, it’s the only business they’ve known.
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