Herald Journal Columns
July 31, 2006, Herald Journal

Not peas in a pod mind you . . .


When I first saw these little white “music” boxes dangling on a string around the necks of young people, I was curious, as this little box was no larger than a pack of gum.

The young people wore these little boxes and had earphones, err...sorry, I believe they call them “earbuds,” connected to them which seemed to be glued into the kid’s ears, with the volume level no doubt set at maximum.

They looked like pieces of jewelry hanging around the young people’s necks as they were walking or running down the road.

I found out from my kids that these little boxes stored and played music files.

I smirked at first, because I thought that a little box like that could not hold very many songs.

Now, being a guy from the ‘70s, I recall us using transistor radios (but we were at the mercy of the radio stations) and the portable cassette players that we used to carry around with us, and yes, I will mention the cool 8-track “portable” players also.

I was comfortable with that. As long as you kept the players on a level table, the sound didn’t warble from the tape being played at an angle, but hey – this was better than lugging around a portable record player – please always remember not to keep any records inside under the rear window of your car . . . especially on a very hot day like “yours truly” did. The vinyl record was slightly – alright, it was really warbled!

I digress I needed to step outside of my comfort circle and embrace the future (again).

I did my homework and found out that these devices were made by Apple Computer and are called an “iPod Shuffle” and that they weigh in at less then a set of car keys.

How many songs can this iPod hold? Well I know that it stores up to 12 hours worth, which rounds out to about 240 songs (using the 1GB iPod model).

Not enough songs? You could go for the 60GB iPod, which holds up to 15,000 songs.

This really makes that old portable cassette player look like a vintage antique model in comparison.

The iPod has circular, ergonomic controls that have the play, pause, skip, shuffle, and hold features on a small circular-control-wheel-touch-pad; you can use your thumb to operate it.

Downloading songs seems easy, too. Just plug the iPod into the USB port of your computer or connect it with the optional docking cartridge. Most of the music you saved on your computer is probably saved as mp3 and wav file formats, which you just download to the iPod.

What powers this small dynamo? Two rechargeable AAA batteries. Yes, it is amazing, compared to the six or eight size “C” batteries we needed for the cassette player . . . those batteries did not last very long, as I recall, either.

Not only music, these things are also made with video capabilities.

The iPod model MA147LL/A has a 2.5 inch color display, holds up to 150 hours worth of video, and weighs only 5.5 ounces.

Same as downloading songs from your PC, you can download your video also. Video formats in MPEG-4 and the newer MPEG-4 AVC (advanced video coding) H.264 compression standards can be used with this iPod model.

I also learned that this video - iPod can interface with your TV using an A/V cable. You can watch your videos and also share your photo’s with friends. This little box has some interesting technology in it.

Some iPod history

The first iPod was designed and built in less than a year. Apple Computer’s CEO Steve Jobs made the iPod public Oct. 23, 2001.

Credit is given to Jon Rubinstein, who along with Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey acted as the principle hardware engineers.

This first iPod was Mac-PC compatible and used a 5 GB hard drive that quoting Jobs: “put 1,000 songs in your pocket.”

The second generation iPod was released in 2002. This second generation came in two versions, one version for the users of the Mac(Intosh) software and the other for the users of the Windows operating system.

The iPod is currently the world’s best-selling digital audio player, as we are now into the fifth generation of iPods.

Now that I learned a little more about the iPods, they are not so bad after all! I have made a decision. I am going to purchase an iPod, wear it around my neck with those earbuds seemingly glued into my ears, crank up the tunes, and be cool once again.