Reflect for a moment on the wonders of the iPod, or really any digital audio device. On a single device, you can completely store and personalize all of your music, audio-book, podcast and other audio files. It can go virtually anywhere you go, whether you are hiking in the High Peaks or driving through the Nevada deserts. It responds to your every wish at the touch of a button – indeed it allows you to customize so much that you can have a playlist for every mood you might have, every event you can conceive of, and so on. You can, at the touch of a button, sync it with virtually any music or book every produced and have it onto your machine in a matter of seconds. You do not have to listen to a single commercial, you are not forced to listen to any song, lecture, podcast, or book to the end. You can dump bad “stations” and add new ones on a whim. You can share your preferences with third parties and have a better music/listening experience developed for you (e.g. Pandora). You can beam the iPod signal wirelessly to a small speaker, a massive stereo, your car, or right into your ears.
And so on.
Now consider what your listening experience was like prior to the iPod. You are at the mercy of disc jockeys on a handful of radio stations that may or may not come in clearly. You could only enjoy your favorite songs or shows or lectures when the radio station deemed it appropriate, and only in a location where you could have that radio station beamed in. I’d also argue that over 75% of the material played on your favorite station was at best uninteresting to you, and perhaps really problematic for you. Radio stations used to (and still do) brag about “coming up, a whole FIVE songs in a row uninterrupted!” and so on. The commercials are incessant, annoying, repetitive and boring. And when you did not like one station, you spin the dial to rinse and repeat the exercise on another. I am sure you still know someone in your family who has a radio station “trigger finger” whereupon a 20 minute drive to school turns out to be nothing more than an utterly annoying and unsatisfying machine gunning through every radio station in the city before you either turn the radio off, or listen to the day’s traffic and weather for the umpteenth time while sitting in the middle of that traffic jam you wished you could avoid.
No metaphor is perfect. But the world of the iPod is the world market enthusiasts encourage, promote and seek. The world preceding the iPod, the one-size-fits-all, no choice, no personalization, no “radio responsibility,” is the world that others are advocating for when they seek greater government control in all aspects of their lives. They may even advertise their preference as superior because it is “free.” But it’s not free, in practice or in theory. And it’s not a world I think many people wish to live in. Ask anyone who is enamored with the glory of government intervention what they think about the iPod world as compared to the stifling experience that preceded it and I would venture a bet that scarcely any would wish to return to that world. So, if we adore the freedom, choice, customization, quality and innovation of an iPod, then why can we not appreciate that widely? Do you really get pleasure forcing me to listen to this day after day after day after day?