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ATPM 11.11
November 2005


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Pod People

by Daniel Jalkut,

Kool and the Nano Gang

With all the hooplah about iPod nano’s vulnerabilities: scratching, cracking, etc., I admit I’ve become a little more coddling of precious than I might otherwise be. I have owned exactly two iPods in my life: the 5 GB original that I bought for half-price a majillion years ago as an Apple employee, and the 4 GB iPod nano that I bought a few weeks ago as an enthusiastic endorsement of my former employer’s kick-ass sense of product design. Maybe in another few years I’ll spend even more money for a 3 GB version!

My first iPod, I remember, was purchased as a glorified hard drive. “I’ll never listen to music on this thing,” I thought, “but I can’t argue with a $200 5 GB hard drive.”

That’s how Apple won me, an enthusiastic music lover, over to the iPod. God only knows how they get the rest of America to sign on! Anyway, after a few weeks of using my iPod for extremely exciting things like storing mixes of my own acoustic guitar home recordings, I thought I might actually put some pre-recorded tunes on it. You know, something forward-thinking, like songs to work-out to! I put a couple albums on the thing and walked over to the Apple fitness center to test it out.

“Hey! What do you know, this thing really rocks!” I thought to myself (thankfully, because that would sound really embarrassing if I said it out loud). I was grooving to some Built To Spill or something, pushing three miles or so on the treadmill as Judge Judy (always on at the Apple fitness center at 3:30 or so) tried to intrude through my (already replacement black) headphones.

As everybody in the room was distracted by their respective entertainment choices, I sensed a slight tugging at my arm. What was that? I looked down instantly to see my spanking new iPod being lifted out of the little storage space on the treadmill, launching into the air as my spasmatic arm caught the headphone wire.

This is where, in a movie, you might hear a voice, lowered in pitch due to the slow motion effect, screaming Noooooo. I watched my poor little iPod bounce out of its holster and fall onto the speeding treadmill track below. I jumped off the track, only to look behind me and watch as the device shot out behind me about three feet, while half the gym looked on in alarmed dismay.

Taking it in stride, I walked over to the little (big, by today’s standards) chunk of plastic and picked it up. It looked OK. My headphones still hung around my neck. I plugged them in. “The Plan Keeps Coming Back Again!” I heard Doug Martsch bellow. Not only had my iPod survived, but it was still playing! I jumped back on the treadmill and finished my workout, a satisfied customer.

Last week I finally got the nerve up to take my precious iPod nano to the gym. Going to the gym these days means riding my bike down to the Cambridge YMCA, so it feels a bit more awkward to be flashing crazy tech gadgets. I got on the treadmill, plugged in my headphones, and started jogging. This time, as it happens, I was listening to a somber George Jones album. I looked around the Cambridge Y as I ran and tried to imagine the sorry words I was listening to, applied to the lives of those I observed.

Since the iPod nano is so dang small, and apparently so dang scratchable, I had to carefully place it in a little nook at the bottom of my treadmill’s “magazine cozy.” The Nano sat there undisturbed, next to the boring issue of Running magazine that I will never finish and should donate to the gym (so everybody else can be bored by it). I was about halfway through my run, really enjoying the Nano life, when history repeated itself. I felt a slight tug at my arm, the sign that I’d twitched in such a way to snag the headphone wire just right. Before I could even estimate what was about to happen, my precious iPod Nano appeared in the air before me, almost floating. It proceeded to sink quickly, and before I knew what had happened, it struck the treadmill surface. As before, it shot out like a dart onto the ground behind me.

I felt the gym stand still. Before, it was at Apple. Everybody knew how significant the iPod was, but everybody also already had one. I knew subconsciously that everybody at the Y today was thinking, “That guy has the sexy new iPod.” To see me show such obvious disregard for its safety was more than a little embarrassing. I decided the only thing to do was assume a lackadaisical posture. I slowly disembarked from my machine, strolled the few feet to where my iPod had landed, and picked it up. I carelessly plugged my headphones back into the device, and waited with hopeful anticipation. Nothing.

I panicked for a moment, before realizing that it was no longer 2002. I stared into my iPod nano and, realizing that it had kindly paused upon removal of my headphones, pressed the play button. George Jones resumed on cue, expressing my sentiments exactly: “Just the thought of losing you, scares me half to death.”

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Reader Comments (3)

Gregory Tetrault · November 11, 2005 - 13:14 EST #1
Trying to emulate the iPod Nano testers at Ars Technica is expensive. Perhaps you should use an armband holder.
Daniel Jalkut · November 11, 2005 - 13:19 EST #2
Haha! I have since come up with an ingenius (?) arrangement where I use the little clip from the treadmill's emergency cable to clip the headphone wire to the treadmill. Seems to keep me out of trouble, so far...
Echro · November 23, 2005 - 14:04 EST #3
If this happens again to somebody: The new ipods stop plaing if you plug-off and then plug-in the jacks ;)

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