Now that the Greenwell household (not this branch of it) is in possession of an iPod to the tune of one, I am having to think about the things rather harder. The idea of being able to walk around with – how many? – say, a gazillion of the songs to which I am addicted, appeals. But ther sound quality doesn’t, and nor does the business of having those little white plugs stuck in my ears. I’m not fond of things being stuck in my ears, although I might be persuaded to wear old-fashioned ‘cans’ (radio argot). But how stupid would that look, having a thing the size of a box of Swan Vestas round my neck, and a huge pair of headphones round my head?
It’s interesting how, thirty years ago, the ghetto-blaster (and before that, and I know the principle is slightly different, the transistor radio, which I must have called a ‘trannie’, because everyone else did, even if I have no recollection of the word leaving my lips) was the teenage statement. ‘Here is my music,’ it said, ‘share it.’ Then, with the arrival of Walkmen – should that be Walkmans, and should the plural of computer mouse be ‘mouses’ or ‘mice’? – music went private. Everywhere you go, there are private communions with music. It’s odd: probably because I come from the noisy generation of sharing.
All the same, the random shuffle part of it appeals. I like the idea of a song popping up out of nowhere, in the same way that I like making selections of music for myself and significant others, just to tease myself and others with my strange taste. An iPod, if fed sufficient material (and I have just about mastered the process, although it took a phone call to my niece to do it) would eventually be coaxable into producing truly memorably random material, whereas CD-making, like tape-making before it, requires hours of time and thought.
I don’t know if a hand can be said to be clod-hopping, but I suspect myself of having clod-hopping hands, if so. Touch an iPod with even average pressure with the finger, and it sits dumbly in the hand like a dead bird. It has to be caressed into action, given a surreptitious stroke by the finger or thumb, its wheel turned with delicacy. As with texting, I just don’t think I have the fingers for it. You see how seductive it is? A moment ago, the problems was my ears. Now it’s my fingers. I must want an iPod after all. (You can actually buy them pre-loaded, too: what an awful thought. You see adverts for them in the kinds of magazines you read at the doctor’s, adverts which suggest you write in and ask for (say) the big band hits of the 1940s to be loaded on to the iPod. God help us.)
However, I think I will leave this another four or five years, by which time iPods will have become cheaper, smaller, and more reliable (it’s the battery, doc). And by that time, they will have been superseded. And of course, by that time, you will be able to ask for an iPod’s successor to be customised to your taste, which telepathic marketing will be able to deduce from the keystrokes you make while you type. (Doesn’t that bug you about Amazon et al. ‘Hi, we know the kind of thing you like, so here’s a picture of what you ought to be buying.’ Drives me mad.)
Ideally, I would quite like to pluck songs out of the air as I walk along, and yes, I realise that this is called ‘the brain working’. But I would quite like to share them. That would make a change from the inward-turned eyes you don’t meet on the street. There would be music, there would be Something In The Air.
Which incidentally is one of my least favourite songs, and I wish call centres would stop using it.