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Chapter 1. Start Here > What Is iTunes?

What Is iTunes?

First introduced in January 2001, iTunes—Apple's “jukebox” or digital music organizer application—was the first in a long series of software applications developed by Apple after many long years of publishing almost nothing but the Mac Operating System (Mac OS) for the company's Macintosh computers. Indeed, iTunes in its original form was compatible only with Macintoshes running Mac OS 9 or the then-new Mac OS X. Many of Apple's applications developed since that time—iPhoto, iDVD, and many of the built-in applications and utilities found in recent versions of Mac OS X (10.3 “Panther” or 10.4 “Tiger”)—share a common look and feel with iTunes, including its “brushed metal” skin, the list of data sources down the left side, and so on. Third-party application developers for Windows as well as the Mac platform have also jumped onto the bandwagon, using the iTunes style of interface for attractive, innovative software that's as pleasant to look at as it is easy to use. Many have argued, though, that few if any applications truly match iTunes' revolutionary unified design or accomplish their desired aims quite so well.

As discussed in “About Digital Music Technology,” later in this chapter, the idea behind digital music is that instead of listening to songs from your favorite artists by putting a tape or CD into a standalone deck or player and playing it from beginning to end, the music that's on a CD can be copied—or ripped—into compressed data files on your computer. These data files don't just have the benefit of being freed from the bulky physical medium of the tape or CD, they also can contain all kinds of useful information built right into their structure, such as the name of each track, the name of the artist and album, the year it was released, the musical genre, even image data such as album art and user-defined information such as a “star” rating indicating how much you like a given song. These data files—usually stored in MPEG-1 layer 3 (or MP3) format—can be collected on your computer's hard drive, rearranged, selected individually, grouped by arbitrary criteria, and played back with very good clarity and audio quality. Doing this, however, requires software capable of making all this simple and intuitive.


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