17 things which I love about my beautiful, bouncing new iPod.

(This started out as a list of 12 things, but I keep thinking of more.)

1. The design. Sleek, sexy, fully functional, and manifestly created with love. You can just tell that sentient, compassionate, dedicated professionals who take a true pride in their work have taken the time and trouble to think through every last little detail along the way. So THAT’S where all you slavering Apple junkies get your hitherto mystifying brand loyalty from. Well, why didn’t you SAY?

2. “Shuffle Songs”. The Killer App. Instantly turns your music collection into a decent approximation of your own personalised FM radio station. But without the DJs and the adverts. Meaning that…

3. …just as with the mythically perfect radio stations of your youth, you can once again experience the surprise and delight of being stopped in your tracks by something unexpectedly apposite to your current state of mind…

4. …but without the corresponding inevitability of having to sit through all those dud tracks in between. Because, naturally, there are no duds on your iPod. And even if there are, you can just reach over and skip them.

5. iPods breathe fresh life into disappointing purchases, and can make played-out albums sound good again. You know all those CDs which your fingers automatically flick past, because you can’t countenance the thought of being stuck in their company for the next 45+ minutes? All of a sudden, they’re no longer dead weight, but rich seams of unexpected treasure. (Notable examples from the past week alone: Junior Boys, Micah P. Hinson, Feist, Sondre Lerche.)

6. Playlists. Last night, I dragged and dropped a stack of albums (taking care to omit any duff tracks along the way) into a “Banyan Tree” (see next post below) playlist of suitably laidback holiday music. After no more than twenty minutes, I then had a customised sequence of music which, if played end-to-end without a break, would take a full six days to listen to.

7. The next level: smart playlists, which automatically update themselves based on the selection criteria which you have supplied. Example 1: every track which I’ve ranked with five stars (an accolade which I only use very sparingly). Example 2: every track bearing a date stamp of 2004. (I’ve already got 1140 of them, and I haven’t even finished going through some of the stand-alone MP3s.) This is going to be an enormous help when drawing up those all-important Best Of 2004 lists, and when compiling the annual Best Of 2004 double mix CD. (Don’t look at me like that. These things matter.)

8. Rolling compilations. Thanks to playlists, you can keep that Top Forty Favourite Tracks Of The Moment compilation constantly updated with new favourites, dropping the songs you’ve grown tired of at the very instant they begin to bore you.

9. The accessories, which you can pick up at the Apple store in the (deep breath, because I can’t believe I’m going to say this) Broadmarsh shopping centre. (Top level, near the escalators that bring you out by Oddbins and Limeys.) Stock up on the right accessories, and you then have…

10. Portability (hardware). If I’m in the bathroom (or lounging by the pool in Thailand), then I can use the cute little lightweight speaker system, with a docking station between the speakers. If I’m near the hi-fi, then I can use a cable with a headphone jack at one end and phono plugs at the other end. Or if I’m near a radio, or in the car, then I can use the iTrip: a simple gizmo that plugs into the headphone jack and converts the iPod into a short-range FM transmitter. There’s no need to plug anything in: just select a free frequency on the radio, and Troubled Diva FM becomes a tangible reality.

11. Portability (software). No more stressing out over what CDs to pick for long car journeys, or for weekend breaks, or to take to the office. No more bulging bags and briefcases, stuffed with far more CDs than are strictly necessary, “just in case”. No more tatty shoeboxes stuffed full of CDs, endlessly making the journey to and from the cottage.

12. Format compatability. Now all your Soulseek and Fluxblog MP3s can mutually co-exist on an equal footing with your album collection. (Because let’s face it: when have you ever got round to burning your favourite MP3s to CD, as you always said you would?)

13. Similarly, you need no longer be tyrannised by the demands forced upon you by your singles collection. Say goodbye to Getting Up And Changing The Disc Every Four Minutes Blues!

14. Peace of mind. Show the door to Pre Middle Class Dinner Party Angst! Simply load up your “Middle Class Dinner Party” playlist on shuffle, and press Go. This also saves you the inevitable panic-stricken dash to change the CD just as the soup has been put on the table. (Ah, gentle observational comedy. You can’t beat it, can you?)

15. iTunes. Suddenly, Winamp seems so primitive as a playback device, and CDex so laborious as a CD burning device. And I’ve even heard that you can do something called “purchasing legal downloads”, whatever that is.

16. The surprisingly intense surge of paternalism which I experience before leaving the house each morning, as I squeeze my iPod into its bendy “skin” in order to protect it from the ravages of the outside world. “Come along, my lovely; let’s wrap you up nice and warm in your matinee jacket. Easy does it. There’s a good boy.” Followed by the corresponding evening routine, as I gently prise off the matinee jacket (or is it a Babygro?) and place my baby back into its cradle.

17. The ooh-ing, aah-ing and coochy-coochy-coo-ing of friends and co-workers, as they crowd appreciatively around the new arrival. “Isn’t he lovely? Lucky you! Can I have a quick play?”

I only wish that I’d never heard about this, which reached me by e-mail from a concerned well-wisher only yesterday.

Sixty gigabytes, not 40? Up to 15,000 songs, not 10,000? Fifteen hours of battery life, not 12? And with the capacity for storing photos?

Suddenly, I feel so… impoverished. So… second generation.
Emergent technology can be such a fickle mistress.

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