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November 30, 2023

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iPod Invasion

White is the new black for MP3 players, thanks to Apple’s now mega-popular iPod and its distinctive pearly appearance.

The digital music player, which went on sale late 2001, is taking over the hearts, minds and expendable income of America’s coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic.

Brian King, a sophomore VCT major, took the $300 plunge and bought an iPod two years ago.

“I got an iPod because I’ve always been a big supporter of all things Apple, it can be used as an external hard drive and it’s a trendy accessory,” King said.

iPod’s popularity has never been higher, as evidenced by its

recent sales.

According to a press release, 4.5 million iPods sold through between October and December, 2004, while Apple has sold a little better than 10 million iPods since its release in October, 2001.

To put the figures in context, over 40 percent of iPod sales came in just three months — after being on sale for about 39 months.

Dr. Chuck Coletta, an instructor of popular culture at the University, explained that the music player’s sudden jump in popularity is an example of a product reaching “critical mass.”

“It’s sort of like a groundswell, a few key people get them and all of a sudden everyone wants one,” Coletta said. “Like, six months ago, I don’t think I ever heard of [iPod], and now I have one.”

“I think the big thing now is personal choice,” he said. “This is kinda like the next generation of Walkman. Now you can do it [listen to your own music] but a hundred times more.”

Coletta said the design of the music player is distinctive. “You know it when you see it,” he said.

“Six months ago, I never thought earphones would be distinctive,” he said. “You see people walking around and you can’t see the actual machine, but you know what they’re listening on.”

Local restaurant and bar Easy Street Café is acting on the device’s vogue status with new “iPod Nights” every Tuesday night.

Dave Harper, manager of Easy Street, got the idea from a story in the Toledo Blade describing Californian clubs that have iPod nights.

“I figured, hey, why not try it out in Bowling Green?” he said.

“A lotta times people go to DJ nights and have to listen to what they play. But here, they can be the DJ for half an hour.”

Patrons call early to sign up for a half hour. Then, that half hour is all theirs to play whatever music is in their iPod.

“We’re not putting any limits on the music so if people wanna come up and play hip-hop, opera, jazz, they can,” Harper said.

Nor are there any limits on the expansion of iPod spin-offs and accessories, seemingly.

In addition to the original iPod model, there are iPod Mini, iPod Shuffle and iPod Photo devices as well — all tailored for different uses.

The iPod Mini is physically smaller and lighter than a standard iPod and holds 75 to 80 percent fewer songs, but at $199, its price is lower than the original’s $299 price tag.

iPod Shuffles arrived January this year, making them the newest member of the product line. They offer users virtually no control over which songs are played; it downloads 1,000 random songs from its owner’s computer and plays them in a random order.

At the upper range of functionality and cost is the iPod Photo, a device with a color screen and a large amount of storage. Not only does store and show off photos as its name suggests, but it plays music and displays album covers as well. Its price depends on its storage space, ranging from $349 to $449.

While four different iPod models may be impressive for a basic product that is only three years old, that number is eclipsed by the massive amount of third-party accessories available — over 400, according to Apple.

Everything from FM radio add-ons and stylized cases to attachable flashlights and digital camera link cables, companies have thought up some interesting ways to trick out consumers’ iPods.

One accessory from MacMice, called the “JamPod,” is a guitar amplifier for iPods. The device plugs into an iPod at one end and a guitar at the other, allowing users to mix the music levels for output to the headphones.

Makers of iPod accessories are making a killing — the accessory business is worth an estimated $300 million per year.

Between iPod accessories and the units themselves, the so-called “iPod Economy” as industry watchers put it, is enjoying success — success that is bolstered by promotional cross-overs. The most prominent of these is with rock band U2.

Not only was a stylish advertisement aired on television featuring a single from U2’s latest album and the likeness of lead singer Bono Vox.

Dr. Jeremy Wallach, assistant professor of popular culture, attributes the iPod’s success to Apple’s advertising campaign.

“It’s a combination of skillful marketing and a real need,” Wallach said. “It’s the latest kind of Walkman, it may be replaced by a very similar device, but the idea of downloading digital music from the computer to a portable device will stay relevant.”

Its relevancy in pop culture may depend on which direction Apple’s marketing strategy goes from here — like product placement.

“They’re gonna have to work it into movies,” Coletta said. “I’d be surprised if, during the summer blockbusters, this thing doesn’t show up.”

When characters on television and in movies use iPods, Coletta explained, a whole group of people who have never seen the device before becomes interested.

One such new customer is senior fine arts major Dominic Knepper.

Knepper bought an iPod this past Christmas and he likes it so much that he recommends it to anyone who will listen.

“Megabyte for megabyte, gigabyte for gigabyte, it’s the best value,” Knepper said. “It’s not worth it to buy a $150 mp3 player with 256 megabytes, just save up for a [$299] 20 gigabyte iPod.”

While he shopped around for other digital music players, Knepper settled on the iPod not only for its storage value but its “amazing” sound quality and simple controls as well.

“Anyone could understand [how to use] an iPod within a minute of using one,” Knepper said. “You couldn’t make it any clearer if you tried.”

Knepper said he tells everyone that if they have the money, they should get an iPod.

“It’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s damn sexy, it does everything you expect it to and more — and as far as ease of use goes, I’d give it a 10 out of 10,” he said.

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