by Mike Shea on 24 June 2003
In 1982 my father wrote Shike on an Apple IIe personal computer. The book did well, the royalties supporting our family for a number of years including the purchase of a brand new Plymouth Voyager minivan and a vacation to Disney World. That Apple IIe had 180k worth of disc space per disc, a 128k of ram, and a 1mhz processor.
Yesterday my iPod came in the mail, shipped in two days from Taiwan. It has a 133 MHz processor, 32,000K of ram ram, and a 15,000,000K of drive space. It fits in my shirt pocket, has five buttons and a wheel, and holds every song I own in less than 1/4 of the total space. The iPod is one hundred times faster, has two hundred and fifty times more ram, and can store eighty three thousand times more data than the floppies my father stored his books on. The Carl Sagan style numbers may be getting on your nerves but I use it to make a point. In about fifteen years, our computer technology has grown well beyond what our Forrest Gump like minds can even comprehend.
I bought the iPod because of the ergonomics. I love good design and Apple has proven beyond anyone's doubts that they have good ergonomics. The new Ipaq is probably the nicest looking and usable PC ever made. The iPod is a pocket version of the same thing. With a touch of your fingers you can sort through hundreds of albums and thousands of songs to find the one that hits your mood at any given time. Even when hooked up to a clunky old PC, you can still rip, sort, store, build playlists, and download to the iPod with ease.
I was immediately taken by the excellent Japanese style minimalist packaging. Little instructional ques, like fortunes out of a cookie, help teach you about your purchase while you unfold the single 7" cube of cardboard. The unit came already charged up and ready to use. All I needed to do was hook up the firewire cradle to my PC's newly installed firewire card and off I went. Download speed took about five minutes for 1100 songs.
I plan on using the iPod mainly in my car. A Belkin car adapter offers a nice way to charge and use the iPod while on the road. This is where I hit my first problem. Just after plugging the whole thing in, the unit wouldn't play. It appeared to be running fine, but no music came out. Irony of ironies, a restart of the iPod fixed the problem and I was happily sitting in Washington DC Wilson Bridge traffic, my mind taken away to a land down under with Men at Work.
I've put over 1400 songs on it so far and used up less than 1/4 the total size. I decided to try it out with something other than just music and downloaded my burned copy of Stephen King's From a Buick 8. In a week of commuting, I've already poured over six of the 12 discs and am loving every minute of it. I purchased and downloaded Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time book 2, The Great Hunt from Audible.Com. I wasn't much of a fan for the original paperback, but in a sea of cars for two hours, my standards drop a bit. It was $10 for the three hour abridged version. I know, abridged books suck, but what the hell. I was a big scared of Audible's proprietary software, but it seemed to download and play fine.
The iPod is already a critical component of my data-rich lifestyle. Like the Tivo, it is an excellent example of black box technology that does only what it is supposed to do and does it very well. It is just me and my music, no fancy interface with spinny things, no control panel that looks like the Millennium Falcon. It is no wonder that the iPod is as popular as it is. With a $400 price tag, it isn't for everyone, but everyone who has ever had one has fallen in love with it. If you are getting into the world of MP3s, skip the cheaper gadgets and save up for an iPod. You won't be sorry.