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ATPM 13.06
June 2007




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by Mark Tennent,

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.

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Reader Comments (7)

Julia · June 2, 2007 - 18:40 EST #1
I was really intrigued by the description of your column in the table of contents, but after reading it I wish you would have written more more about WHY you seem to have outgrown your iPod. That an exponentially larger music library would lead you to using a device (a mobile phone) that holds less music and plays for a shorter time seems counter-intuitive, but obviously it's the case for you and probably others. Was it a change in lifestyle, or your attitude toward music, or a weariness toward carrying a lot of gadgets, or what exactly? It would be interesting to read why you think your tastes or needs have changed so much in such a (relatively) short time.
fog city dave · June 3, 2007 - 02:19 EST #2
Yes, I agree. You spend the vast majority of your post explaining how wonderful and revolutionary the iPod has been for you and then finish off by saying, "And now I use a phone instead. The End." Wow, fascinating and insightful.
Mark Tennent (ATPM Staff) · June 3, 2007 - 06:22 EST #3
I originally stopped using my iPod because I didn't like having earphones in all the time and prefer listening to a loud speaker, even in mono. It was deciding what to use as a ring tone that made me use my phone's MP3 player. Personally I'd like a phone that goes "ring ring" but apparently that's unfashionable. So currently it's Iggy Pop's The Passenger. :-)

Then, as you say, a pocket full of gadgets becomes tiresome so one small device that can do it all is appealing.
Grover Watson · June 5, 2007 - 06:59 EST #4
I'm just the opposite of the Author. I bought my 1st 5GB ipod about a month aafter they went on sale. I had just bought my 733Mhz Quicksilver G4 and I was fascinated by the fact I could import my entire CD Collection into my Mac's meager 80GB hard drive, mix a playlist in something called 'iTunes' and burn CDs for my Sony mp3 Walkman as a backup player for my long trips to Thailand.
My son inherits Dad's old technology. He is waiting for Apple to come up with a 100GB iPod so he can get his greasy little hands on my current 80GB 5.1 gen iPod Video. :)
I'm holding out for a new iPod with a 3.5 inch screen, 100GB+ storage and firewire 400 support for transfer of my .mp4 Movies from my now 1.8 Ghz, 500GB Quicksilver desktop.
Apple still rules.
Heather Isaacson · June 7, 2007 - 22:16 EST #5
I haven't needed an iPod up to this point. Now I'm looking for a good back - up to store my large iPhoto Library on. It is tempting when I read that an iPod can store 30.000 + photo's. Suddenly I think I need one.

As far as music goes .... I really enjoy the music I have. I still have a turn table and records that I enjoy. I also have hundreds of cassettes and I play them in my shop where I have the old cassette player with speakers.

In the car I use the old FM Radio, listening to the news and turning it off. The car cassette player is taped over so no ones tapes will be gobbled up and mangled. I like the scenery and the Sounds of driving. I find music distracting.

I still play CD's in my art studio while I'm painting. So far I have had no trouble putting all my Music CD's into iTunes on my computer. I enjoy listening to music while I'm working on the computer. Music no longer takes up space in my office.

If an iPod could make some of my vinyl records and cassette tapes into available music for traveling, I might be interested in getting one for music.

I haven't heard of this being the case until this article.
If a person could do this, (which I do not think would be legal, or ethical) we all could get some great millage out of the music we already have invested in. Unfortunately, I don't think so, ..... or am I wrong and maybe someone can still show me that I need an iPod for music.
bil · June 8, 2007 - 11:05 EST #6
I've coverted about 300 of my vinyl albums digital with my mac, using SpinDoctor, and then moved them into iTunes and onto the pod. The only hassle is breaking up the tracks and typing out the song names and album info.
There is no legal issue, any more than making a cassette for personal use from an album--you're not distributing the music, just playing it differently....
Avery Ray Colter · July 3, 2007 - 14:02 EST #7
It was KPFA and Pacifica Radio - who themselves often take Apple to task for their equipment recycling policies - which has driven my desire for the iPod. Its functionality makes it very easy to deal with hours-long political radio and music programs, whether downloaded from their MP3 archives or recorded on SoundStudio in AIFF format from my FM receiver. I like being able to put an unconverted AIFF file right on without the time taken to convert to MP3 first. I got my wife a newer video iPod and it's cool to be able to have our wedding pics and movies and other such things handy to show to people we know, but I still have my audio only model and if it gets hosed, I'll happily get a used audio-only to replace it. The only advantage I see to newer models is that flash models don't get hosed as easily when dropped as the hard-drive based models do. I did lose my 5GB first generation unit that way. But the price to capacity ratio is still pretty dismal for the flashers.

My only complaint so far is that while iTunes itself can mark beginning and end points to play a file that is on an iPod, thus allowing a kind of bookmarking, the iPod cannot do this on its own. I've always thought a very neat add-in to the iPod firmware would be to be able to click and hold while the navigation slider is up to set a time into the play as a new start point. Then if you switch to another track, you can go back to that one and start where you left off.

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