Apple has sold millions of its popular “ipod”, MP3 player in the last six years. The ipod has accomplished in the MP3 space what Starbucks has achieved in retail coffee – – the creation of a nation of addicts. The device has caused metamorphosis at Apple as well, transforming the PC upstart into a successful consumer electronics company. Ipod has begun to shape and mold a generation. The nuclear family who once talked at the dinner table, played mind numbing games like “ I Spy “ on family car trips and walked down the street keenly aware of all conversations and the community around them, has changed forever. Each day, millions of children, teens and adults insert the signature white earphones – – a sort of evil tap root stretching from some invisible umbilicus pumping music into their brains, oblivious to noise, weather or perhaps a family member who has fallen and cannot get up.
I finally succumbed to the relentless accusations that we were indeed the “last family in North America who did not have ipods”. Santa surreptitiously left four ipod shuffles and one ipod Nano underneath the tree for Christmas. He must have been laughing as his sleigh pulled out of sight because my life has never been the same. My office was quickly reduced to what looked like a crime scene with green boxes ripped open, white entrails of head phones and UBS port cords, installation CDs and of course, four rectangular plastic devices the size of a Bic lighter. With reckless bravado, I sat down to attempt to “register” the first ipod on the computer. A few clicks and some information and I was done. Voila! How easy was that? I attempted the second ipod and ran into a few difficulties. It seems the “second” ipod was not recognized by the computer as its host computer. Apparently the first ipod had mated with the Dell Computer and they had entered into a monogamous relationship. The instructions suggested in such emergencies that I merely click on the “Restore” button. Never click anything that says “Restore” – – this applies to cryogenically frozen relatives, used batteries and anything with a hard drive. Restore means erase everything on the hard drive, which included my daughter’s songs that I had recently purchased and downloaded. It was on this Heart of Darkness journey down Silicon Alley that I discovered the clever snare that is — the Apple ipod.
Many of Apple’s ipod brands are closed platforms. It is the equivalent of working in the coal mine and then having to buy your tools and food from the company store. You can only buy music online from iTunes. The device is fragile. It is expensive to buy but not so expensive to where the cost and hassle to get it repaired is not worth the aggravation. That is, if you can find anyone who will repair it. Most retailers will not handle repairs. My theory is that you must send all broken ipods to Steve Jobs’ cousin Mitch who just happens to run an electronics repair store in Naples, Florida.
The ipod Nano is a .99 cent slot machine that never pays off. Nanos also only acknowledge authorized computers. The devices always boomerang you back to, you guessed it, iTunes. The iTunes store itself seems like a giant crack house where music addicts can disappear for days, only to emerge pale, fleeced of their money and exhibiting signs download withdrawal. As if adding insult to injury, Apple has developed every conceivable accessory so that even fetuses can have a selection of music piped en-utero. These devices are called Amniopods.
Psychologists were the first to observe the ipod nation phenomena. Terms like “Podaphiles” became commonplace in medical journals. There is an actual ipod Anonymous website where people can share “their experience, strength and hope with each other so they might solve their common problems with downloading music and help others to achieve musical sobriety.” One addict shared, “ it started so subtly with a few downloads of Rap and some hip hop, and it just escalated to where I was living in a basement apartment in SoNo, downloading obscure German polkas and Albanian folk songs. Things got way out of hand.” As a rule of thumb, if you start downloading music by groups like Sonic Death Monkeys or Seven Poison Dwarves, you need help. Other bloggers are out to take a bite out of big, bad Apple. An Australian website recently awarded Apple its coveted “2006 Choices” Prize for the most “shonky “device on the market. A friend from Oz tells me that shonky means dubious or underhanded. There is even an ipod Death Clock website where you can input all of your ipod’s particulars and predict the exact hour and minute that your ipod will die.
With all that said, I remain addicted. I am hardly the frenetic dancing silhouette on the TV ads. Actually my dancing shadow would probably resemble two rhinos fighting over a donut. I have been downloading music and have found myself at times drifting into some strange musical neighborhoods. I have had a few “incidents”. I recently showed a friend my ipod and was relating all of its operational subtleties. We discussed my musical interests which widely range from The Grateful Dead and Neil Young to Brazilian Jazz. I turned on the ipod and a song entitled “My Fo-Fo “by some guy named Fat Joe populated the digital screen. After we listened to the rapper, we surmised the “Fo-Fo” was a ‘44 magnum. Hmmm. The next song was by Ja Rule and was entitled “21 Gunz”. It was clearly that some suburban gansta from my family had acquired my ipod password and had let a few new “artists “into the library.
In a world where we have become slaves to modern day addictions – – caffeine, work, exercise (did I say that?) and now ipods, it is important that we are reminded that the ipod is not a necessity but an indulgence. It is not a “need”; it is a “want”. It was designed to keep us coming back for more and to slowly liberate us from our hard earned cash. Mr. Jobs understood all too well that music is a timeless addiction and it stirs in each of us a restless, irrational flutter of memories, feelings and need. Shakespeare once wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die”. Personally, I think Hunter S Thompson had it right when he said, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
By the way, I kept Fat Joe on my ipod. After a hard day in the city, “My Fo-Fo” sounds pretty good.