Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2005/ 4 Shevat, 5765

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Invasion of the iPods | The recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showcased a slew of new gadgets designed to capitalize on the most successful electronic product of the past couple of years, namely Apple Computer's iPod portable digital music player. For those of you who are not up on the latest and greatest in the world of electronic toys, the iPod is an acronym for Interface Protocol Option Devices. In English that means these are small portable machines which store and play music. That's it in a nutshell (pun intended).

They come in various sizes, the smallest model, the iPod Shuffle, was just introduced at the show and is about the size of a pack of chewing gum. The most popular model is bigger (about the size of a pack of cigarettes) but has a screen that shows you which tune is playing, and holds many more songs ( 5,000 as opposed to 120). This thing hangs on your belt, or around your neck, or in your pocket or purse and can play all your favorite tunes to you through earphones as you go about your life doing other things like walking, exercising, shopping, driving a car, working, eating, or even sleeping. All your music all the time directly into your head. Does this excite you? Frankly, it doesn't do much for me; I don't get what the big deal is all about.

Clearly I am in the minority on this one because this thing is hot, hot, and hot. As the kids might say, "EVERYBODY has one!" If you do a Google search on the word, 'iPod' more than 38,000,000 results will pop up! According to iPod Hacks dot com (yes, there are web sites devoted to this gadget), more than 4.5 million iPods were sold over the Christmas quarter. Over 10 million iPods have been sold in total, and over 230 million songs sold so far at iTunes Music Store, the main source for buying and downloading music into your iPod. iTune Music Store is in 15 countries, holding 70% of the global market share.

iPods ain't exactly cheap, costing about $250.00 not including upgraded headphones and other accessories. The music cost extra, of course, and is downloaded from a computer into the player.

I realize that music is a very big deal for teens and young adults, it always has been. I love music too, but I just don't have that burning need to carry it around with me everywhere I go. I enjoy a wide range of pop, classical and jazz music played at home on my stereo system (do people still call them that?) or sometimes in the car. I own records, tapes, and a tremendous amount of CD s too many, if you ask my wife.

Music is a marvelous, wonderful part of life; it sets a mood, cheers you up, lulls you to sleep, stirs the soul, and can bring tears to the eye. Music can be shared with others or it can be a very personal thing. I couldn't imagine a world without music. Having said all that, I don't want to walk around all day plugged into a music system which separates me from the rest of the world and I don t appreciate those who do.

Like so many other things, music has a time and place and, in my opinion, being out in public is neither the time nor the place for personal music. It's rude and selfish to shut out everything and ever person around you. It's no different than people who walk around talking on their cell phones all the time. What is this desire to separate oneself from other human beings?

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And another thing, it seems that so many young people have this need to be entertained all the time, they can't even go to the market without a music soundtrack behind their action. There are more people out and about these days, and yet less people seem to be actually communicating with each other, how sad.

I listen to my music at various times but I don't want music all the time. For one thing it gets boring. And sometimes I enjoy just having the quiet. No music, no television, no talking, just quiet. When it's quiet you can think. When music is going constantly you can't think, but maybe that's the whole purpose of it for many people. Keeping the noise going all day not only shuts out other people, it keeps you from thinking too much.

So I don't think I'll be getting an iPod anytime too soon. It's not that I enjoy communicating all that much with people when I'm out in public. And it's not that I like to sit around thinking a lot either. I just can't see spending all that time and money just to obtain and organize music that I already have in two or three older formats. I mean, geez, how many times can I keep duplicating the same stuff? When tapes came out I bought tapes of the same music that I had on records. When CD's came out I did the same thing. Enough already!

Besides, I probably wouldn't be able to figure out how to download the stupid thing.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2005 Greg Crosby