On the day Apple introduced the flat-panel G4 (“lampshade”) iMac, back in January of 2002, I ordered one online. During the check-out process, Apple helpfully suggested a number of accessories I might like to purchase with my iMac, and although I didn’t think I really needed it, I caved to the marketing pressure and bought an iPod – that is, the original, 5 GB, scroll wheel iPod (for $399 – can you imagine?), which had just hit the market a couple of months earlier.
As it turned out, I never used it much. Since then, every time a new iPod has come out, I’ve tried to convince myself (and Apple has tried to convince me) that if only I had the latest version, I’d see the light and start using an iPod constantly. But that hasn’t happened yet, so I continue making do with an iPod that features six-year-old technology, a real dinosaur by today’s standards.
Here’s the thing. My lifestyle is not at all conducive to iPod usage. I don’t commute. I don’t jog or bike or go to the gym to work out. When I’m walking, I want to be thinking or talking or enjoying the scenery, not immersed in my own little musical world. When I take long flights or train trips, I prefer to pass the time by reading. Being a dyed-in-the-wool computer geek, I very much like the idea that I could watch TV shows and movies and listen to my entire iTunes collection and browse my photos anywhere. It’s just that the only place I ever seem to feel like doing those things is my home, and when I’m at home, I can do those activities in all sorts of ways that don’t require squinting at a tiny screen or sticking earbuds in my ears. There’s no situation I regularly encounter in which an iPod would make my life better.
And yet, iPods get smaller and sleeker and more capacious and prettier and generally more wonderful with each generation, so each new release prompts me to try, very hard, to figure out why this time, finally, I truly do need one.
Well, this time Apple has really gone and done it. They’ve not only created designs with incredible new features, they’ve made the choice of models in their new line-up as difficult as it’s ever been. Of course I want the new iPod nano because it’s so small – and with video! But no, I’d much rather have that 160 GB iPod classic because I could use it for backups and other secondary purposes. If only it were smaller, though! Or wait, the iPod touch is really elegant, what a lovely screen, and all that Wi-Fi goodness… but maxing out at a paltry 16 GB? And I go through all these machinations, as I’m sure many other people do too, trying to figure out which is the best compromise to make until that happy day in the future when there’s a nano-sized 1 TB iPod touch, 3 mm thick and only $99, by which point, of course, even that will no longer meet my needs.
But eventually I conclude that no matter how tiny they are, or how many bells and whistles they have, and how happy I may feel holding one in my hand, I’m still just not going to use an iPod regularly, and I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a gadget just for the sake of having it. (Well, no, I want to, but I can’t afford to.) This realization makes me sad, as though I’m flouting one of the most deeply held beliefs of the fraternity of geeks. But deep down inside I know that an even more important belief is that technology should conform to my lifestyle, not the other way around.