Last month I committed iPod. It took me a while, but I finally gave in to this bit of consumer culture. It brings up a lot of thoughts.
First, it makes me feel guilty. The iPod says up front that it was designed in California but made in China. I deplore that everything, especially all of our electronics, are made overseas, primarily in China, probably by workers earning a pittance in poor working conditions. I don't know Apple's policies on labor, but Milton Friedman (see Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctiine) and Wal-Mart have had a disastrous effect on the world economy. Wal-Mart not only has manufacturing plants in China, but insist that their suppliers bring in items for such a low price the suppliers have no choice but to start manufacturing overseas paying miniscule wages.
I'm totally perplexed at pricing for mp3 players. I did a lot of online shopping and price comparisons, including looking at non-Apple brands. For lower capacity players, the other brands are cheaper, but Apple gets competitive with their higher capacity players. But the p;rices are just all over the place. You can get players under 1 gig for under $50. 2-4 gig players range greatly in price. What I really don't understand is that you can get an 8 gig iPod Touch for $200 and for $250 I got an 80 gig iPod Classic. Ten times the storage capacity for only $50 more! I do understand they are different technologies, one solid state and one a hard drive, but don't know that there is much difference in the life of the product.
It sure is nice to have all this music in one device I can put in my pocket. And I can also save podcasts, video, and even documents (though I haven't tried that yet). The iTunes store makes a tremendous amount of material available. There is very little music I searched for that wasn't available. The major exception is, amusingly enough, the Beatles. Their albums are on Apple records, which has had an adversarial relationship to Apple Computer. iTunes also has movies and TV shows available. For example, some episodes of classic Star Trek are available for only $1.99 an episode. Not that much is available yet, but the price is a surprise... Paramount has up until now charged large amounts for Star Trek. Podcasts of Bill Moyer's Journal are available free - it is just the audio, of course, no video, but still!
Even more exciting is iTunes U, or University. There are free podcasts of lectures from many universities. I've found lectures from Paul Krugman, Al Gore, Molly Ivins, Cokie Roberts (on the Founding Mothers), Dan Rather, and many more. I do hope Georgia Tech is working on getting our material into this format.
I guess I'm just really entwined in consumer culture and have become a Modern Woman. I now have a laptop, a cell phone, and an iPod. What next?