Who Needs an iPod?
When the second-generation iPod arrived in 2002, my kids got me one for my birthday. By modern standards it is a bit of a brick, the shape of a thick pocket calculator and as heavy as a breeze block. It’s even made of stainless steel with a plastic faceplate thicker than a modern iPod. At the time it seemed wonderful.
We managed to put the entire MP3 collection of four Macs into that iPod; its 20 GB hard disk seemed enormous. Our music library was already eclectic and large by 2002 standards. Plugged into a set of powered speakers, the iPod became our new hi-fi. Running in the car, via an illegal (in the UK) iTrip transmitter, our entire music collection came with us.
Then there was “Napster Week” when the whole world was swapping music before “they” closed it down. Up until then we hadn’t bothered with downloading tracks, but when the RIAA won their case and a time limit was put on the legality of the process, we got our 2 Mb ADSL working 24 hours a day. It was collecting the tracks we “owned” already but had locked onto vinyl and compact cassette tapes.
When the RIAA won their anti-piracy case against Napster, they probably did more damage than the P2P downloading caused in the first place. The RIAA haven’t made a dent in peer-to-peer swapping, and by bringing the process to international attention, gave it the biggest free advertising campaign. Even now, with iTunes and others making music legally available, P2P networks flourish using strong cryptography and with decentralized servers making it almost impossible to stop.
Now, five years after the iPod arrived, our media libraries are huge, boosted by iTunes downloads, M4As, and other digital formats. The effects of DRM, despite what the legislators in many European countries say, are no barrier to playing protected tracks on non-compatible devices. iPods have grown larger in storage space and smaller in dimensions, with the latest Shuffles being tiny wafers of solid state RAM. My original iPod comes out for an occasional car journey but usually stays shut in a drawer.
Our music playing device has regressed. Instead of powered speakers or earphones, enormous storage and sleek interfaces, we use a mobile phone with barely enough space to take more than a couple of hour’s worth of music. The built-in speaker is worse than a 1960s Dansette, and getting 100 MB or so of tracks onto it via Bluetooth is hardly a rapid process. But given the choice at an impromptu barbecue, I’d rather be listening to a phone-based MP3 player and still be able to chat with my partner.
The batteries last a lot longer too.
Also in This Series
- What Trick, What Device, What Starting-Hole… · May 2012
- Do Androids Dream? · April 2012
- Our Macs Are Under Attack · March 2012
- The Best and Worst Christmas Presents · February 2012
- The Best Use for a Kindle · January 2012
- It’s Got No Blinking Light · January 2012
- Box-Shifting Causes Migration · December 2011
- The Best Thing About the iPhone 4S and How to Cope in Clink · December 2011
- Death of a Salesman · November 2011
- Complete Archive