My (belated) introduction to the world of iPod

October 5, 2007 | By | 11 Replies More

Last week, a dear friend asked me if I had an iPod.  I told her I did not.  She knows that I like to listen to lectures and interviews and so does she.  She told me that numerous interviews can be downloaded for free through Apple’s iTunes site. She gave me a tour of the site and convinced me that you can, indeed, download thousands upon thousands of intriguing sounding interviews from NPR and numerous other sources. 

She saw that I was intrigued with this possibility.  She also knew that I ride a bike to work and I therefore was not able to listen to live radio during my commute.  She suggested that if I had an iPod, I could listen to all kinds of interesting things as I pedal to to work.  In fact, she went so far as to ask me whether I would promise to use an iPod if she gave me one.  I said “sure.” She ducked into the next room and emerged with a small box containing an iPod Shuffle, a device that is about as big as a postage stamp.  The shuffle holds 20 hours of music or interviews in its 1 GB memory.  The tiny kit comes with a charger/USB port that allows you to drag tunes and interviews into the Shuffle through the use of the iTunes interface.  It is all incredibly slick and easy to use.  I accepted this tiny though generous gift, only half-expecting it to work when I got home (it just seemed to small to do the things that it supposedly did).

But work it did, and the Shuffle is now a regular part of my life.  I “subscribe” to numerous news and information sources and I drag these interviews and speeches into my Shuffle.  I have also imported a dozen of my musical CDs into iTunes and then dragged many of those songs onto the Shuffle as well.  The Shuffle does not have a display, but it has transport controls that are easily operated by your finger.  I don’t yet know how long the battery lasts, but I’ve been playing music for two hours at a time without a problem-perhaps it will go a lot longer than even that.  The musical fidelity is outstanding.  The Shuffle comes with two earbuds which fit comfortably into the ears.  Truly, I don’t make a dime off of Apple products but I’m writing this post because I am so incredibly impressed by this technology.  By the way, the Shuffle kit costs only $79.  The Apple’s iTunes software is free.  Within 30 minutes of opening the Shuffle, you will be almost an expert at using iTunes along with your Shuffle.

Today I was listening to jazz while riding a light rail train.  I was noticing all the people milling around at the station while I privately listened to George Gershwin compositions.  It was then that it occurred to me that the high fidelity music I was listening to was making everything I saw seem like a transitional scene in a movie.  It was a bit disorienting.  It made life seem like a movie, except everything was a transitional scene and there were no talking parts, because I could not really hear them with music playing.  While listening to music, everything you notice takes on the ambience of your music.  It’s the same effect that you can see in this comedy piece, a takeoff on Mary Poppins.  Then again, if you’re playing happy music, those non-orchestrated scenes of people you notice on the trains and in the train stations all look much happier than they otherwise look.

Another thing was quite different for me.  While listening to music or interviews on the Shuffle, I have made myself inaccessible to everyone around me.  Although I don’t try to go out of my way to communicate with people I don’t know who happened to be sitting on a train, it sometimes happens that I sometimes traded comments with someone sitting near me.  That doesn’t happen while you are wearing earbuds, however.  When you’re occupied with the music, you might as well put a sign on your shirt, “I’m busy.  Don’t talk to me.”

So yes, I’ve fallen in love with this tiny gadget that allows me the option of withdrawing from the crowd even when I’m among the crowd.  It allows me to listen to part of an interview when I’m actually falling asleep at night.  It allows me to hear brilliant lecturers wherever I happen to be at the time.

Well, one thing led to another.  My family has more than 700 musical CDs at the house, we often play them in a CD player.  The CD cases often get separated from the CDs, leading to the need to sort things out.  Further, sometimes the CDs are not place on the shelves in the right order.  In short, we have an unwieldy musical CD collection.  It’s so unwieldy that the $249 80 GB iPod started making sense to me today.  The spec sheet indicates that this iPod will hold 20,000 songs, which I assume to be more or less 2000 musical CDs.  It will hold every CD I family owns.  All we got a do is download that music onto the hard drive of our computer (and, of course, back it up).  At that point, we can put the CDs in a big box and put it down the basement.  Who is going to load all those CDs into the family’s desktop computer?  Well, I’ve got two young daughters who might be willing to do all this work for a little bit of spending money.  We’ll see . . .

With the iPod, you can dial up your favorite group or your favorite genre of music and play these in straight order or in the shuffled order.  No more lost the CDs and no more piles of CD cases lacking the CDs.  Goodbye musical CDs and hello desperately needed shelf space. 

A couple of friends have asked me why I didn’t have an iPod prior to this point.  They both asked, “Weren’t you the guy who always wanted to have the latest gadget regarding computers?” To the extent that was true, it was true many years ago, prior to the point that I decided that I wanted to start being in the second wave of consumers that discovered gadgets.  I didn’t need to be the first person in line, because I do one of sit there trying to work out the bugs.  The iPod is a case in point.  The price of an iPod has fallen dramatically in the storage space has grown incredibly.  The net result is that you can now get tiny technology that would of been worth millions of dollars only a couple decades ago.

For those of you who already know about the iPod, this post will seem a bit naïve.  For those of you who have never tried to use an iPod, I think you will be amazed, as I am, at the iPod’s elegant design and terrific functionality.

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Category: Communication, Consumerism, Technology

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (11)

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  1. You can listen to music, audio books (by the way, http://librivox.org has a huge collection of audio books for free, it's usually classics read by volunteers, some have good reading voices, some less, depends), podcasts with any mp3 player.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    I bought a $9 mp3 player a couple of years ago. It's not an iPod, so it doesn't require Apple software. It runs for days on a AAA battery. At 128 Mb, it only holds about 2 hours of music or interviews. But I don't use it much out in the world. I prefer to be connected rather than plugged in.

    I've dumped my CD's into mp3's with legal and free software. I download podcasts from NPR, so SciFri and such are available when I have time to listen. With just Windows Explorer, I easily swap out what I listen to.

    I've been thinking of upgrading. TigerDirect.com sells 1Gb mp3 players for $20, or 2Gb mp4 players (with a video screen and full menu capabilities) for $40.

    2Gb is over 34 hours of music, or about 500 songs (or 50 LP's worth). They also sell iPods, new or refurbished.

    How many unique songs do you need between visits to your computer?

    Of course, other brands aren't as Cool as iPod. I've always been a function-over-form sort of fellow. I'll happily save a few hundred dollars by not seeming as cool as the next kid.

  3. xxxx says:

    don't ever listen to an ipod while riding your bike.

  4. "don’t ever listen to an ipod while riding your bike."

    That's true, I forgot to mention that, too. I also bet there is a fine for riding a bike and listening to music at the same time.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    At least two people have commented that cyclists should never wear ear phones or ear buds. I could suggest that deaf people are allowed to drive and ride bikes, so what’s the big deal with cyclists wearing ear phones? I could point out that people in cars and trucks often hear NO road noise because they blast their megawatt stereo systems.

    I won’t rely on any of these arguments, however. I used my iPod while I cycled home one night last week. I became concerned that the music to which I was listening blocked out probably 75% of the road noise. This means that I was endangered because I didn’t hear numerous cues, including the tire noises of approaching cars and the faint noises of other cyclists.

    Based on my one-time experiment, I cannot recommend riding a bike in city traffic while listening to music through ear phones. On the other hand, I’m going to run another experiment whereby I listen to only an interview instead of music. Perhaps this choice would allow a lot more road noise through. That’s my hope. I’ll see . . .

    BTW, ear phones are illegal in at least several states, including NY and CA (though not in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live).

    NY http://www.nysgtsc.state.ny.us/bike-vt.htm#sec375

    CA http://www.bicyclela.org/Law.htm

    http://ask.metafilter.com/56487/Earbuds-and-the-l

  6. Erika Price says:

    Erich: you said you'll try listening to interviews. I suggest "discovering" the world of podcasts. You'll find a wide variety of quiet discussion to listen to on your commute. My list of podcasts looks something like this: numerous NPR programs, discussions by writers at Scientific American, neuroscience news, a history program, Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and a weekly psychology discussion. I subscribe to all of these for free; most podcasts cost nothing. You can find lengthy, quality discussions and interviews on nearly any topic, so hopefully you can stumble across podcasts at a much faster rate than it took you to find the ipod!

  7. Edgar Montrose says:

    Many years ago, back when "portable music player" meant "Walkman", not "iPod", a cycling companion told me of a bicycle crash that she had witnessed.

    It was apparently quite common for male cyclists to sprint past her in obvious displays of testosterone. (In fact, I believe that every female cyclist I've ever known has complained of this.) On this particular occasion, the man in question was listening to his Walkman while riding. He got a few yards ahead of her, and then his head bobbed up and down a couple of times before he suddenly crashed in the ditch.

    She stopped to find out if he was okay, and to see what had caused the crash. She found that he was unhurt (except for his pride), and that the crash had been caused by the cord from his headphones getting caught in the bicycle chain.

    She laughed, and rode on.

  8. xxxx says:

    don’t ever listen to an ipod while riding your bike.

    it doesnt matter if you listen to music,

    podcast, lectures, or a religious sermon. whatever.

    you are an utter fool if you listen an an ipod while riding your bike.

    period.

  9. Ben says:

    There are appropriate times for multi-tasking. There are also times that it is best to concentrate on the job at hand. I figure that driving (commuting) is the most important thing I do every day, at least in terms of my life-expectancy (based upon statistics about auto accidents). I imagine biking is equally hazardous, if one were to calculate the odds of getting into an accident. Better to keep your senses as sharp as possible.

  10. Deaf people do indeed not hear any road noise, but that's actually not the point. The point is that when you're listening to something, be it music or interviews, your attention is not on the road, but on something else. I'm not going to be as harsh as xxxx and call you a fool for riding your bike with ear phones, but I still think it's best not to listen to anything while riding your bike. And you wouldn't want to set this kind of example for your kids, right?

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    OK, OK. I've run the experiments and I'm ready to report that using an iPod while riding a bicycle on a public street is dangerous, no matter what you listen to (whether music or podcasts).

    The problem is the not so much with the podcasts. When I ride a bike slowly (less than 10 mph), I can still hear most road noise. The problem is that I don't like to ride slowly. When you ride faster (around 15 mph), the earbuds cause wind turbulence around your ears and this can be extremely noisey, blocking out most road noise. This wind noise exists even when I paused my iPod. The wind noise has to do with the shape of the earbuds and the fact that the wind roars around the earbuds.

    Therefore, riding on a street while wearing an iPod is not recommended. Wearing the iPod takes away cues by covering them up with wind noise. But it's even worse, because you don't have the ability to pinpoint the direction of the noises you still can hear.

    That's my finding. Thanks for all of the cautions. You were all correct.

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