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Like most tech-savvy music fans in this age of aesthetically-pleasing-yet-flimsily-constructed electronic gadgets, I own an Apple iPod. And, as happens to many iPod owners, mine eventually broke.
I continue to hold no suspicion that the inevitable demise of my fourth-generation “click wheel” iPod had anything to do with the near-simultaneous release of Apple’s fifth-generation, full-color, video-capable iPod. I’m sure it was just a curious coincidence, and not some nefarious scheme on the part of Apple executives and manufacturers to give consumers that last push needed to keep them constantly upgrading their music technology. Yet I can’t quite bring myself to purchase the latest edition of Apple’s digital media player. Maybe it’s because my current iPod still works, kind of—as much as 25 percent of the time on a good day. Or perhaps it’s because I’m still paying my current one off. More likely it’s because I know that, by the time my brand-spanking-new fifth generation iPod (which was originally released in October of 2005) arrives at my doorstep, Apple will announce the upcoming release of its sixth-generation iPod. I imagine that one will have full pay-per-view-porn capabilities, and Lord knows I’m willing to wait it out for that much.
As a music fan on the go, however, this situation leaves me more than a little screwed. Without my iPod, how exactly am I going to be able to listen to Fugazi while taking the Metro? Like an Internet junkie contemplating what life used to be like before the World Wide Web was created, I scoured my brain trying to remember how I used to accomplish this ever-so-important task. Then it dawned on me—the Walkman. Perhaps you remember the Walkman? Many moons ago, that stack of unattended CDs collecting dust on your bookshelf used to serve a purpose. It’s hard to fathom but, once, society actually used the CDs themselves to listen to, as opposed to simply uploading the music onto iTunes before casting the CD into the ethereal void. (Trust me on this one. I looked it up on Wikipedia.) The Walkman allowed you to listen to your CDs outside of your own home—as you walked.
Let me tell you about my Sony S2 Sports Walkman, which I found in a long-forgotten cardboard box (along with a broken drum machine and a four-track tape recorder) in the back of my closet. In a pre-iPod society, the Sony S2 Sports Walkman was king. This sweet beauty had an ergonomic joystick that allowed you to play, pause, stop, and skip tracks—-as well as control the volume—-with only the thumb of the hand it was strapped to. It had a built-in FM/AM/TV/weather-band digital tuner with 51-station preset memory. It had a durable, water-resistant casing designed for active use. It was compatible with such digital musical formats as CD’s, CD-R’s , and CD-RW’s. It got close to 50 hours’ worth of playing time on only 2 AA batteries. And let’s not forget the “Skip-Free G-Protection” technology, which guarded you against music interruption while you jogged. (I’m not sure what the “G” in G-Protection was for, but I always assumed it was for “fucking amazinG.”)
I didn’t take me very long to fall back in love with my Sony S2 Sports Walkman. In fact, I’m starting to wonder why we ever parted in the first place. In many ways, the thing actually seems more convenient than an iPod—and it’s certainly more reliable. But it has become very apparent to me that the rest of you do not feel the same. I can feel your disapproval, your mockery, your hatred with every passing glance you cast at me and my Walkman. “Get with the times, loser,” one set of eyes says to me. “Where’d you get that thing, your mom’s attic?,” another set asks.
On the Metro, while rummaging through a stack of CDs in my messenger bag, I catch such a glance. Flustered, I drop a few CD cases to the ground; one CD pops out of the case and rolls a few feet down the isle. Someone snickers. My face red with embarrassment, I suddenly feel like the guy in the Pringles commercials. You know: the tubby schlub, sitting on a park bench with a bag of generic potato chips, who is covered in broken chip pieces and wearing a shirt with multiple grease stains while the rest of the chip-eating world dances by with cans of Pringles in in their hands and shit-eating grins on their faces?
Damn you and your superior chips. Damn you and your superior digital music players. My Sony S2 Sports Walkman and I are happy with each other. Can’t you all just leave us alone?