[eat]It could be described as a little box of joy. Some are white, some are black and some have been touched by rock stars, but each is beautiful in its own way. Some even have names. I call mine “Lovely Rita,” after the saucy meter maid of Lennon/McCartney fame. Oh, and everyone has one. I am talking, of course, about the iPod.
All suggestive joking aside, Apple Computer’s miniature digital jukebox has become a cultural fixture. It is seemingly impossible to leave your home and not encounter at least one pair of white earbuds. Since 2001, 28 million iPods have been sold world wide. Chances are, you own one of those 28 million.
[play]Whether you’re a casual listener or rabid audiophile, the iPod makes you an offer you can’t refuse: a convenient storage unit for thousands of audio files you can take anywhere you please. “It’s become more of a companion than perhaps I would like it to be,” English senior Anne Petrimoulx said. “I’m sort of dependent upon it when I go anywhere; like, if I’m going on a walk and my iPod is dead, I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t go on a walk anymore.’”
Expansive storage capacity and positive word-of-mouth led film studies junior Carrie Shemanski to the iPod. “Most [other players] have less space,” she said. “I’ve heard good things about [iPods], people have them and when they have problems they seem easy to fix.”
Sometimes, an iPod comes to those who aren’t even looking for one. Arts and letters sophomore Nick Graff purchased his as a package deal with an Apple PowerBook G4. “I paid only $50 for it, so I got it,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have one.”
iPod users pointed to the player’s ease of use as another key deciding factor. Linked with Apple’s iTunes software, getting files from your computer to your iPod is as simple as click and drag. [cara3]According to Forrest Carter, associate professor of marketing, this, along with innovative marketing and branding, has made the iPod the “must-have” digital music player.
But even the iPod breaks down sometimes. “It showed this little screen that was just like an iPod with a sad face and a big ‘x’ across it…that’s when I knew I was f—-ed,” museum studies senior Matthew McKinley said. It is a horror of unimaginable proportions: your iPod has mysteriously stopped working, holding your collection in a digital limbo. For McKinley, this musical nightmare occurred during a study abroad session, making a quick fix a non-reality. Thankfully, the friendly folks at Apple could eventually bail him out, for a nominal fee. “I wasn’t really surprised – a lot of iPods break, a lot of Apple products break,” he said.[melissa3] “It seems like they have a very good customer service department, they break so often. I paid like 47 bucks for the shipping plan for the next two years, and they fixed it for free, which is nice. I mean, I still paid almost $50, but at least they fixed the $300 iPod for free.”
Shemanski has had a trouble-free seven-month relationship with her iPod, but she was quick to knock on some nearby wood while discussing the subject. “I would probably be more upset that I had to spend some money to get it fixed than I would to be without it for awhile,” she said. “But if I had to be without it for a week or so, I think I might start feeling the pain.”
Living in the high-speed Information Age, obsoletism is a nuisance we all cope with. Yet, with the iPod, obsoletism has become almost cyclic; once one consumer group has settled down with one generation of iPods, the next generation is going into production. [erik3]Even as I prepared this article, Apple announced and released a sleeker generation of iPods, with greater storage capacity and video capabilities. This announcement came a meager few weeks after the release of the iPod Nano, the digital music equivalent of the wafer-thin after-dinner mint. “I know that’s inevitably going to happen, and I’m not going to rally against it, but it’s kind of stupid,” said Shemanski. “I’m happy with the basic 20 gig one.”
McKinley said the constant stream of iPod updates is an indicator of Apple’s continued dominance of the digital music marketplace. “They have such a hold on the mp3 market; iTunes is such a driving force in music today, and they going to be successful in whatever they’re marketing,” he said.
Shemanski considered the possibility that one day iPods may be so widespread that they would literally be inside our heads. “I’m sure one day we’ll all have iPods in our brains, but right now, I’m happy with what I’ve got” Shemanski said.
[white]Of course, there are still those unfortunate souls forced to wander the streets ‘Pod-less, like anthropology junior Laura Bell. Bell lives in an apartment with three iPod owners and many of her other friends own one as well.
“I feel jealous,” she said with a laugh. “My CD player doesn’t really work all the time, it’s missing a cushion for one of the headphones, I have to change the batteries…it’s a little frustrating, and I see all these easy, nice iPods, and I really want to buy one, but I can’t bring myself to spend $300 on it.”[last]
But one doesn’t have to spend $300 on an iPod; in fact, you can spend $399.99 on the latest 60 gigabyte video-equipped model at bestbuy.com. Those looking for comparable storage space and price tag can look to the 40 gigabyte Zen Touch player by Creative Labs ($299.99 at bestbuy.com), the 30 gigabyte Phillips GoGear Jukebox ($279.99) or the 40 gigabyte Toshiba gigabeat ($329.99)
Journalism junior Amy Oprean is the proud owner of a five gigabyte Dell Pocket DJ. While she admitted that the smaller song capacity may compromise her mobile musical selection, Oprean said she is very satisfied with the device, even if it isn’t as eye-catching as an iPod.[kari3]
“iPods come in a lot more colors, and everyone seems to be more excited about them, but I really don’t care what color my Dell DJ is, so it’s good enough for me. I don’t find myself wishing I had an iPod or anything.”
[megan3] In the face of breakdowns and obsoletism, iPod Nation marches on. With each new generation comes more and more iPod owners. Go outside and count the number of earbuds you see. Even the fact that the word “earbud” is part of the general lexicon is a testament to the hold of the iPod. “…you see a lot of people with white headphones,” McKinley said. “So many people walk around campus like that, you see more people with headphones than without. I feel like it’s almost a community. Not that you’re listening to the same thing, but you’re all doing the same thing as you’re walking around listening to music.”

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