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…