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iPod, youPod, we all pod for podPod

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2003

So, I got myself one of Apple’s new iPods. I only ever used an older-style iPod at the Apple Store a few times so I can’t really compare the new with the old, but I love my new little friend so far. Size was an important issue for me (you may insert your own joke here) so I got the 15GB model instead of the slightly larger and heavier 30GB one. It’s so small, thin, and light; it feels like it’s barely there sometimes.

I’m using it during the morning & evening commutes and at lunch while reading. As someone who is not used to wearing headphones in public, the elimination of audio in the urban environment — the rush of a cab through an intersection, the bustle of someone trying to get by you on a crowded sidewalk, the overheard snippets of an entertaining conversation — is disorienting. I’m relying on my other senses — particularly sight — to keep aware and safe. So far, I like the music but miss the sounds of the city. Perhaps I’ll give the iPod a rest 1 or 2 days each week.

Reader comments

Buzz AndersenMay 09, 2003 at 1:54PM

Congrats—enjoy! I don’t think I could ever part with mine, personally (except for an upgrade, of course). One interesting observation I have about my iPod: it has really changed my attitudes about purchasing music. I used to think of buying a CD as sort of a discrete event, but now I tend to think of it simply as gathering yet more raw material to feed my insatiable hard drive :-).

Joshua KaufmanMay 09, 2003 at 1:54PM

I listened to music on my iPod in the grocery store once or twice. I’m used to the typical Grocery Radio ©, so hearing The White Stripes, Yo La Tengo and Groove Aramada while shopping for milk and bread was sort of surreal.

SchianoMay 09, 2003 at 2:03PM

I, too, purchased the new 15gb iPod last week. It’s amazing how lightt his thing is. I walk around campus with it in my pocket, and half the time, I don’t even realize it’s there.

Apple does it again. ;)

JimMay 09, 2003 at 2:07PM

Welcome to the club! Your longing for digital music will now become hard to quench, I fear. May I recommend emusic as a welcome complement to the iTunes music store? $15/month for unlimited 192kbit VBR mp3 downloads, lots of indy stuff that the iTMS hasn’t picked up yet. I used up my 50 track trial just pulling down new Tom Waits stuff.

I have a tendency to download a lot of music, so I built a Smart Playlist that automatically filters all music added in the past few days (Date Added is in the last 3 days) and then listen to those on my commute in to work. Great way to find new stuff.

Lee BennettMay 09, 2003 at 2:11PM

I’m holding out for one last revision to the hardware. We’ve all heard the talk about how it’s technically possible to record audio on the iPod. This would be an immense boon for me. I occasionally have to gather material for an article and to be able to use it in lieu of a microcassette recorder would just take the cake.

I could probably gamble and just get one right off the bat. My suspicion is that if Apple does officially let it record, there’ll just be a software update and a new accessory you can plug into the bottom of it. But I would kinda hope there’d be a slightly updated model with a little built-in mic.

Andy BaioMay 09, 2003 at 2:22PM

Plus, Solitaire and Parachute!

Jason FriedMay 09, 2003 at 2:51PM

You know… I have a “old” 10 gigger, and was thinking of upgrading to a new 15 gigger, but I’m not so sure anymore. Yes, the new pod is lighter, and slimmer — both huge positives — but the build quality and fit-and-finish just doesn’t feel as nice. Gone is that beautiful “glass layer” detail. Gone is the simplicity of the single control element with the 4 integrated buttons. Gone is that feeling of slight-heft that made you remember you were carrying something that was well built. The new buttons also feel a bit too sensitive (it feels like it’s easier to make a mistake with the new design). But maybe I’m just holding on to the past. What to do. Any other upgraders out there?

HeatherMay 09, 2003 at 3:01PM

I bought a new 15GB last weekend, mainly for my daily commute (~1.5 hours on DC’s metro system) and my daily workout. I love having the ability to go nuts on the elliptical machine without worrying about skipping. My fiancee and I are buying the car kit soon; we’re looking forward to having the majority of our music collection with us during an 11-hour drive to Alabama.

Matt HaugheyMay 09, 2003 at 3:12PM

It’s great to hear someone else talk about how disorienting wearing headphones in public can be sometimes. I can’t go running with a walkman in a city of any size, it just feels too dangerous to remove such an important sense (you often hear trouble before you see it when jogging through traffic). It always felt weird walking the streets of san francisco with my rio, too. Maybe it’s my reduced eyesight, but for some reason it feels foolish and unsafe for me to wear headphones with loud music playing anywhere besides when I’m sitting still (like on the commuter trains, airplanes, buses, etc).

Jon BellMay 09, 2003 at 3:22PM

I also noticed how light it was and made a mental comparison to my OG 5 gig one. Even though the old ones feel more sturdy, I’m sure these are just as sturdy, just lighter.

Plus, I can’t believe these connect as hard drives to mac *and* windows, no muss, no fuss. That’ll be useful if/when I get a job that doesn’t buy me a Mac.

KonstantinosMay 09, 2003 at 3:46PM

A plus for the new iPod is that it seems to be able to play .mp4 files - currently there’s no official tool to upload .mp4 files to your iPod, but the restless users just came up with something.

LucianMay 09, 2003 at 3:46PM

I agree with Jason Fried about the old iPods feeling more solid. I got mine for free with the purchase of my 12” Powerbook. The new ones feel a little more plasticky than the old.

Ok, I’m just jealous alright?

BenMay 09, 2003 at 3:49PM

The issue I’ve always had with wearing headphones is that I cannot judge whether the people around me can hear what I am listening to. I normally have my music on fairly loud, and I thus assume it sounds like I brought my ghetto blaster (judging by the volumes at which I can hear the music coming from other people’s headphones). Any time I think I’m being too loud, I take the earbuds out, hold them in front of me and barely ever hear even a peep, thus I assume no one else can when they’re in my ears. I could be totally wrong though (maybe the sound bounces off my ears?) Is there a sort of easy private test for this, similar to breathing into your cupped hand to check your own breath? Maybe holding a tape recorder at arms length and playing it back?

R.May 09, 2003 at 3:53PM

currently there’s no official tool to upload .mp4 files to your iPod

If you’re on Windows, right. If you’re on a Mac, you can use iTunes 4 … which incidentally will be cross-platform by year’s end.

Further incidentally, AAC-encoded files really do sound noticeably better, and are more compact to boot. My 20-giger was straining before the latest firmware upgrade.

SteveMay 09, 2003 at 4:06PM

Does anyone run with one? I am sick of the inflexibility of having to pick the exact right CD to run to, only to discover part way through my run, that I picked the wrong cd….

TellerMay 09, 2003 at 4:21PM

I like wearing earphones in the city, really quite anywhere. But I like to listen to stuff at low volume so I also get ambient sounds. Sometimes it’s disturbing as I have this “old” CD-player and it’s stuck away in by backbag and I don’t have this fancy remote control to turn up the volume when garbage truck is going through it’s routine next to me. Also at work (we have really quiet office) I have the volume so low I can hear what’s going on, if anyone’s asking me etc. Not so disorienting this way :) Also, this disorientation thingy might have something to do with human balance organ being located inside the ear… no?

HCMay 09, 2003 at 4:36PM

It irks me when I see ipodders with their white headphones. Why buy great electronics and keep the crappy headphones that inevitably come with it? Visit headphone.com and get some good sounding ones for

HCMay 09, 2003 at 4:37PM

It irks me when I see ipodders with their white headphones. Why buy great electronics and keep the crappy headphones that inevitably come with it? Visit headphone.com and get some good sounding ones for under $30 that are ten times better than those white things. For the true experience of ‘detached in the city’ get some ety’s (http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_117825_2750crx.aspx), I cant hear a train 3 feet from my head even with music on only medium volume.

lpqboyMay 09, 2003 at 4:58PM

I used to be really into the headphone-immersion thing a couple of years ago. My listening tastes have since changed, though, and nowadays I never have my headphones on unless I’m sitting down someplace.

It was weird reading HC’s comment about being so enveloped by headphones that you can’t hear a train- sadly that exact situation happened just last month less than a block from where I work.

Please, headphone wearers, if you’re gonna do it, try and be safe…

drew mclellanMay 09, 2003 at 5:25PM

Did anyone get their iPods engraved when they ordered? I’ve seen that option on the Apple Store and wondered what people write.

I like the idea of “employee of the month” … I wish budgets stretched to that sort of bonus for my projects.

If you had your iPod engraved, what did it say?

PodBoyMay 09, 2003 at 5:40PM

I love my iPod but prefer not to wear it while I’m in a social space (like downtown). I live in an urban area to enjoy the benefits of community—actually interacting with real live humans in real time and enjoying all the ambient sounds of the city. When I see someone wearing headphones in a public space the message is very clear: “Don’t bother me—I’m not interested in engaging you in conversation and being part of a social space.” Which may be in intended message after all.

JasonMay 09, 2003 at 5:45PM

The only reason I’ve held out on getting the new iPod is because of the well-documented firmware issues, and because I’m very comfortable with my 20GB iPod and the button layout as is. FYI, Jason, you should take your iPod to CompUSA on 57th and Bway and purchase a TAP plan. It will cover your iPod if it breaks, and if Apple releases a newer, better iPod, chances are you’ll be able to upgrade yours for just the cost difference between the two. I bought a 10GB directly from Apple, bought the TAP from CompUSA, then exchanged it for the 20GB, an even swap minus the extra cost of a new TAP plan. Just to keep in mind.

Fan of BiberMay 09, 2003 at 6:05PM

As Jonathan Ive once said, “Everyone is lusting for the iPod,” including me. I had the original 5 GB from work, but had to trade it in (for a 20GB Firewire drive). I am considering the new model. I did have battery issues with the 5GB original version until update 1.2 (I believe). I’ve seen and held the new 30GB model, and was amazed at its size. But everyone seems to be saying that the new 15GB is even more incredibly small.

I many times have brought the iPod along to listen in public spaces, but like some here, it feels somewhat uncomfortable. I commute by car and have no train, bus, or subway ride. Now around home I’ve been using my TiBook to connect via my G4 tower with iTunes and some headphones. It would be nice if the iPod was Rendezvous-aware and could pick up the computer’s playlist wirelessly. Until then, I’ll rough it with the laptop (with the added bonus of web surfing) and continue to window drool over the new pod until I can’t hold out no longer.

Jonathan Crowe (mcwetboy)May 09, 2003 at 7:44PM

Funny. Ambient urban noise — especially traffic — has always drowned out my iPod (using earbuds, both stock and third-party). Even listening to classical music on the bus is problematic — if it’s a piano sonata (for example) and I’m near the bus’s engine. I must be listening to much quieter stuff.

tj hookerMay 09, 2003 at 8:23PM

They look so good. & all that memory. But without firewire (I have a Dell) am I hosed?

jjgMay 09, 2003 at 8:39PM

tj, the new ones also support USB 2.0.

HC, the Apple earbuds are hardly crappy. They’ve got better frequency response than just about any other bud-style headphones out there. For people who don’t care to have something jammed up in their ear canals like the Etymotics or who don’t want big clunky Grados, it’s hard to beat the Apple earbuds.

greg.orgMay 09, 2003 at 8:59PM

Dateline, NYC- We got a 20Gb at year’s end, and we LOVE it, but use it almost exclusively in the car. From Amazon, it came with an iRock FM transmitter, which is ok, but the week it arrived, the sexy-lookin iTrip transmitter showed up on the scene. (It wasn’t scheduled to ship until spring. Has anyone tried it?)(And now there’s iFM, apparently. iCaramba)

As for the headphone thing, call me an “ambient Manhattan sounds/hear the pickpocket behind me/jaywalking is my favorite sport” nut, but I only use one earbud when I’m out. I leave the other one flailing around unelegantly as I try to imagine what’s so great about stereo sound.

SethMay 09, 2003 at 11:10PM

I have two pairs of headphones. One cuts me off from the outside world and lets me give my environment the soundtrack of my own choosing. As Jason said, it can be kind of surreal. When I started doing it a few years ago (with a laptop in my backpack) I remember the awe of discovering what other people must have known for 20 years (since the Sony Walkman). Sometimes I do feel a need to connect with the sounds of the city, but usually I just appreciate a chance to listen to my music.

My other headphones aren’t so enveloping. They’re the sort with the band in the back (instead of the traditional over-the-top). I wear those biking to work, 10 miles in traffic. I’m sure it’s marginally less safe, but really I have no trouble hearing the cars. On my way in, I listen to music, and only on my way home late at night, when there are few cars making noise on the road, do I have the option to listen to the various NPR shows I’ve recorded.

jonahMay 10, 2003 at 12:09AM

Funny, just today I was walking down the crowded Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica listening to my JukeBox III (I’m too cheap and uncool for the iPod) and I was having a hard time not shuffling into a dance while listening to the Troublemakers. Of course, with all the homeless people and street performers, I probably wouldn’t have earned a second glance. I did keep them on when I ducked into Borders, avoiding the now inevitable Nora Jones endless loop in every corporate bookstore or coffe shop.

ScottishMay 10, 2003 at 12:31AM

tj hooker, there IS a USB adapter that you can pick up. See here.

jkottkeMay 10, 2003 at 1:30AM

As Jonah notes, the other difficulty in listening to music while you’re out and about is resisting the urge to break into song and dance. I was listening to Dealership on the way home this evening and it was all I could do to keep from busting out the air guitar.

Mark CraneMay 10, 2003 at 10:29AM

Some of those Bose noise canceling headphones would be a nice addition.

Also, tons of cool stuff recommended here, a pdf of a 2000 whole earth review: http://www.kk.org/tools/index.php

AdamMay 10, 2003 at 12:06PM

I wish I could afford one, but so far they are out of my reach as a college student. Another issue I need to resolve is earbuds; does anyone have any to recommend? I have some Grado headphones that I love dearly, but I can’t seem to find earbuds that sound similar.

nickMay 10, 2003 at 8:08PM

the headroom buying guide should give you all some ideas.

the mighty jimboMay 10, 2003 at 11:43PM

i have had my ipod since the first version. i LUV it. it’s a little disturbing how much i love my ipod. almost in an unnatural way.

i said ALMOST.

regardless, it gives you a soundtrack. lets you strut around too cool for the world. like being in your own 70s cop show. sadly, no one else is moving to the same beat, so you dont look nearly as cool as you think. but who cares. you still have a little mobile personal soundtrack.

jedrekMay 11, 2003 at 8:57AM

Concering the headphones… I really like my Koss Sportapros. They have great sound, an incredible bass and, at the same time, let me hear what’s going on arround me.

essMay 11, 2003 at 12:23PM

Teller sez “Also, this disorientation thingy might have something to do with human balance organ being located inside the ear… no?”

You may be onto something. I cannot wear headphones/earbuds without feeling terribly claustrophobic. I am as squeamish about this as some are about getting water in their eyes. Hate them. Earmuffs too. However, I can put headphones on my cheeks and be pretty happy.

AmyMay 11, 2003 at 6:58PM

I got a 10gb iPod about 8 months ago, and I don’t think I could ever give it up. But I use it almost exclusively in my car with a cassette adapter, and it is so nice to not have to carry CDs around. I’m surprised Apple hasn’t pushed this aspect of its usage, because it is awfully convenient. Although I guess a lot of new cars don’t have a cassette deck. When will they start putting RCA or mini inputs into car stereos?

CoreyMay 12, 2003 at 12:41AM

I must be a jaded city-dweller. As much as I like being a part of the sounds and dynamics around me, I consider headphones, now connected to a 10gb iPod, a required Urban Anti-Freak Device on my El commute in Chicago. My first advice to my wife (then girlfriend) when she moved to Chicago and started taking the El was to wear headphones, even if she wasn’t listening to anything.

Headphones will keep away most of the undesirables, and usually don’t deter the desirables. Like I said, I guess I’m jaded.

David WertheimerMay 12, 2003 at 9:33AM

I noticed years ago that when I wore headphones around Manhattan I was much happier riding mass transit but at a far higher risk of being run over at an intersection. Tip: keep the volume at a level where you can hear buses zoom by.

Marc KermischMay 12, 2003 at 10:10AM

As one of those evil PC users… I am broke down last week and bought an iPod. Ahh, it’s nice to have some great design in my life. The iPod works remarkably well with the PC, though I don’t have access to iTunes, which would be nice. I find that the iPod occasionally has trouble responding when I put my fingers on it’s slick buttons, but overall I love the little thing. I have 60 CD’s ripped to it so far, and still have 12 GB left of space. The sound is impeccable, and since there are no great street sounds in MPLS, I listen to the iPod every chance I get.

Richard AndersonMay 12, 2003 at 3:15PM

Amy, I was in the Volkswagen showroom in Berlin recently, going over the latest Campmobile model with a fine tooth comb. At the bottom of the dashboard were left and right audio jacks and a video jack. I hope we start seeing more of that soon. Like before I buy my next car.

George OlsenMay 13, 2003 at 3:41AM

They ain’t cheap, but Bang & Olafson’s earphones are the perfect audiophile companion to the iPod, particularly when AAC compression is set to a higher quality than Apple’s default. Exquisite sound and extremely comfortable — I can wear mine all day. They’re not fully enclosed, which I actually like, since at lower volumes it leaves just enough ambient noise to stay oriented.

Warning: don’t try the B&O’s unless you plan to buy them…cause once you hear them, there’s no turning back.

For road warriors, the Etymotics earbuds are great for flights, since they cut out much of the plane’s rumble. (I got a pair because the B&O’s allow too much plane noise.) They’re not noise-cancelling, like the Sony MDR NC-10, but they’re more comfortable on long flights, the sound quality’s much better and the noise baffles cut down the outside noise to about the same levels (they’re rated at 15-20 dB reduction). Etymotics actually warns you not to use them jogging, driving, etc. since you can’t hear your surroundings.

wchulseieeMay 13, 2003 at 6:21AM

I have an mpio mp3 player, no big hd of 20 gb just 128 mb memory. I have about 2 hours music on me which is enough. I take the bus to work, listening to music, people around me talk and talk and talk about lots of stuff i don’t wanna hear. I just look and see the mouths move and hear i.e. jsbx. Sometimes its a great world ;-)

TonyMay 13, 2003 at 12:17PM

Just wait ‘til mp3 players are 3G enabled and we can hook into our collections at home, friends collections, worldwide radio streams. That’s when the fun will *really start.

AndyMay 13, 2003 at 4:04PM

I want an iPod, but more to the point, I went and checked out Dealership. I like them.

rik abelMay 15, 2003 at 7:06AM

I have an old-skool 5GB iPod which I love to death. Wearing it makes tasks such as shopping in the supermarket and travelling on the London Underground much more bearable - I can sink into a reverie even when jammed into an aluminium can with 200 other people…

I managed to wear through the cable of the stock headphones but have been extremely happy with my replacements: Sony MDR-EX70 Fontopia earbuds. They do cut out a lot of ambient noise, so don’t wear them in busy traffic. And minidisco (usually) stocks the white, Japanese-only version which go nicely with the pod: http://www.minidisco.com/mdr-ex70slw.html

Mark ChallyMay 16, 2003 at 6:23PM

I thought this was going to be a comment about the PodPod iPod Easel. You can check it out at the following link:

http:www.chally.net/podpod

John OlsonMay 20, 2003 at 9:58AM

PodBoy - I got a 15 GB replacement for the original 5GB I left in a airplane pocket (yes, yes , stupid, stupid). So , I had me email address engraved.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.