Are iPods Worth the Money and Just What Do You Do With Them?

If you don’t already own one of those tiny rectangular boxes with a minuscule screen and a circular dial on the front, chances are you’ve at least seen one. If the numbers are to be believed, millions of people on the planet spend time blissfully enjoying their favorite sounds by twirling a small round wheel and pushing near invisible buttons on what looks like a cross between an Apple computer and an oversized container of TicTacs. Why, you might be asking yourself, do people use these things?!

I’ll start by admitting that I (at the age of 38 and heretofore a confirmed Luddite) am new to the marvels of the wonder machine. It took the urging of my 11-year-old stepson to finally convince his backwards parents (this year) to take the big step and embrace the technology of the pod. Sure I had a Walkman in high school, but the iPod makes a Walkman seem like a toy in comparison. To begin with, iPods allow for the storage of vast quantities of music. Our 30 gigabyte pod can hold 7,500 songs. Currently we have several hundred digital ditties loaded (which feels like a lot) and continue to add new music every day. Pods can be used with headphones, making it like a mini high-tech Walkman, or connected to larger speakers, allowing the box to function like a tiny stereo. You can buy (for around $145.00) one of many brilliant pod-related gadgets, such as the JBL On Stage speaker system, a smallish (seven-inch wide) circular device onto which your pod can be placed. And the sound from this stylish little donut is big! For the budget-minded podster, there’s the Shuffle ($99.00), which is truly diminuitve and can fit in the palm of the hand. Shuffles can hold up to 240 songs, depending on the model. Or, for around $200.00, there’s the iPod Mini, which can hold about 1,000 plus songs.

A favorite iPod gadget of mine is the iTrip, a small cylindrical thingamabob that plugs into the top of the iPod and allows one to play wireless music through the car stereo. We use the frequency 87.9 in conjunction with the iTrip and have gone so far as to purchase a foam pod holder (or “Pod Pod”) that sits in our car’s cup-holder, cradling the iPod safely as we motor along listening to countless favorite tunes, which can be purchased (usually for 99 cents per song) online at sites such as www.apple.com, or downloaded via file-sharing sites such as Napster or LimeWire.

Music can also be loaded from your CD collection via your computer. And your music can be organized into playlists, or blocks, such as “Parents’ Music” or “Kids Toonz.”

If you’re feeling protective, or you just like to accessorize, you can acquire items such as the iSock, a small woolen sock designed to snuggle your investment. It’s silly, but it’s colorful. Or how about the U2 iPod, for the rocker in you. Autographs of the band are etched into the back of the black and red unit, which goes for $349.00.

Just be warned that a shared family iPod on random shuffle can result in jarring segues: from high-brow opera to Eminem, from classic Beatles to Bowling for Soup, or from the Allman Brothers to Lizzie McGuire. This weekend we parents plan to acquire the new Elvis Costello album online. We won’t even have to leave the house. Maybe the Walkman had its virtues.

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