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Introduction > What Is an iPod?

What Is an iPod?

An iPod is many things to many people, but most people think of it as a pocket-sized music player that holds 100 songs, 15,000 songs, or more, depending on the model. The iPod dynasty now ranges from a screenless 512-megabyte version that can hold plenty of songs for your gym routine and never skip a beat, to a 60-gigabyte multimedia jukebox that spins out color photos along with colorful music.

Like the original Sony Walkman, which revolutionized the personal listening experience when it was introduced in 1979, Apple's announcement of the original 5-gigabyte iPod in the fall of 2001 caught the music world's ear. "With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again," intoned Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. But even out of the Hyperbolic Chamber, the iPod was different enough to get attention. People noticed it, and more importantly, bought it. By the end of 2004, Apple had sold more than 10 million of them. The iPod was the single bestselling music player on the market, the dominant player; for the first time in modern history, Apple got to feel like Microsoft.

And no wonder. The iPod was smaller, lighter, and better looking than most of its rivals—and much, much easier to use. Five buttons and a scroll wheel could quickly take you from ABBA to ZZ Top, and every song in between.

Gleaming in a white and chrome case slightly larger than deck of cards, the original iPod could hold at least 1,000 average-length pop songs (or six typical Grateful Dead live jams), and play them continuously for 10 hours on a fully charged battery. The black-and-white LCD screen offered the song information in type large enough to actually read, and a bright backlight allowed for changing playlists in the dark. And with its superfast FireWire connection, the iPod could slurp down an entire CD's worth of music from computer to player in under 15 seconds.

Beyond the Music

Inside the iPod spins a hard drive (or, in the case of Apple's new baby, the iPod Shuffle, a memory chip, but more on that in Chapter 3). That hard drive, of course, is the secret to its massive capacity—but it's also the secret to a whole raft of surprising, little-known features like these:

  • iPod as external drive. You can hook up an iPod to your Mac or Windows machine, where it shows up as an extra drive (albeit a much smaller drive if you plug in your lil' old iPod Shuffle). You can use it to copy, back up, or transfer gigantic files from place to place—at immense rates of transfer speed, thanks to its FireWire or USB 2.0 connection.

  • iPod as eBook. The iPod makes a handy, pocket-sized electronic book reader, capable of displaying and scrolling through recipes, driving directions, book chapters, and even Web pages.

  • iPod as PalmPilot. Amazingly, the iPod serves as a superb, easy-to-understand personal organizer. It can suck in the calendar, address book, to-do list, and notes from your Mac or PC, and then display them at the touch of a button.

  • iPod as GameBoy. All right, not a GameBoy, exactly. But there are three video-style games and a memory-tugging audio quiz built into the modern iPod— perfect time-killers for medical waiting rooms, long bus rides, and lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

  • iPod as slide projector. Granted, not every iPod can do pictures and music, but if you've got an iPod Photo model, all you need to do is whip out its AV cable and find a TV set to entertain your friends with a musical slide show of your latest trip to Disneyland.

You know how Macintosh computers inspire such emotional attachment from their fans? The iPod inspires similar devotion: iPod Web sites, iPod shareware add-ons, an iPod accessory industry—in short, the invasion of the iPod People.

If you're reading this book, you're probably a Podling, too—or about to become one. Welcome to the club.

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