So I bought an iPod while we were on holiday. The 20GB model. And, boy, it is gorgeous. I must have spent hours ogling its sleek design, running my fingers over its sensuous, smooth surfaces, and taking great delight in the touch-sensitive action of the clickwheel. And that was before I loaded it up with any music.
Of course, I then went out and got a protective case for it. (Or rather, Pat and Susan bought me one for my birthday.) Rather than carrying a thin, elegant, and gloriously tactile gadget in my pocket, I now walk around with a much thicker, rubberised white plastic and perspex brick.
It's still recognizably an iPod, and the functionality of the thing hasn't changed, but even though I appreciate the extra protection the case provides, I'm feeling somewhat dubious about it. I'm not ungrateful for the present, mind--I asked for it, and Susan took me down to the local Apple store where I chose it myself. As cases go, it's great. But using a case diminishes the iPod itself.
If I just wanted a music player, and wasn't concerned about looks or design, I could have bought a cheaper gadget. But I didn't. I bought the iPod because it is, quite simply, beautiful. And now I'm covering it up? It's like buying a Porsche and never driving it for fear of chipping the paintwork. The fear is driven by a sense of frugality, but also by a certain embarrassment at being able to afford to pay over the odds for a mere whim. Call it Rich Man's Angst. I get nervous and awkward when I have to go Christmas shopping, too. When did Christmas stop being fun?
Anyhoo.... I still love my iPod, and using it has given me the urge to tidy up my music collection. I first got an MP3 player in 1999. It had a whopping 64MB of memory, so space was at a premium. I still have a whole bunch of CD rips encoded at 96Kbps, and they sound pretty bad, especially when I'm using the Belkin TuneCast FM transmitter to listen to them over the car radio. A lot of those files aren't properly tagged with ID3 metadata, either.
It looks like I'm going to have to (have to) spend some time re-encoding a pile of CDs. Which makes me wonder: is it time to switch from MP3 to AAC? I like MP3 for its portability and compatibility, but with iTunes on my PC and an iPod in my pocket, what exactly do I need the compatibility for? If I'm willing to put in the effort now to re-encode my CDs into AAC, I'm sure I can manage it again in a few years' time when a better codec comes along. Considering that the bulk of my collection is encoded in MP3 at 196KBps or higher, going AAC probably will save me some space, too. The 2GB I have to spare won't last me another year...