Dr. Bombay lays into the Ipod on the occasion of the ubiquitous, semi-transformative appliance's fifth birthday with a bracing little screed in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. He concludes:
unlike the gadget-boy and gadget-girl sitting next to me and my indulgent wife at an outdoor restaurant last weekend, each of their empty heads surgically connected to their iPod earbuds, each off in their own little iPod world, I actually preferred hearing the world around me and the woman across from me, the only one I know who will listen to my rants without charging me by the minute. I was almost moved to rip the buds from their ears and drag them kicking and screaming back into the real world.
That couple was lucky I was occupied with the intricacies of a really fine Mexican beer at the time. They may not be so lucky next time.
Back in 1999, RiShawn Biddle celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Sony Walkman thus:
In The Closing of the American Mind, cultural critic Allan Bloom wrote that the Walkman-tugging teen reduces centuries of Western cultural progress into "a nonstop…masturbational fantasy" celebrating libertinism. The neo-Luddite writer John Zerzan, for whom art itself prevents people from truly experiencing nature, says the Walkman is part of an "ensemble of technologies" that cause a "protective sort of withdrawal from social connections." And any card-carrying member of the hand-wringing morals brigade would lump those magic earphones in with video games and TV violence as abettors of aberrant and abhorrent teen behavior.
Then there's Thomas Lipscomb, chairman of the Center for the Digital Future. He thinks the Walkman is the electronic equivalent of soma, the happiness drug in Brave New World. "It closes you in an airtight bubble of sound," he complains. "It's a sensory depressant." What's more, he says, it prolongs adolescence, stifles social contact, and keeps people from expanding their intellectual horizons….
The Walkman is neither hi-fi Prozac nor a perpetual alienation machine. If anything, it makes listening more interactive. We can mix and match our music like clothes, creating our own playlists and carrying them with us wherever we go. This has subtly changed our expectations in the marketplace, forcing the music industry to accept our eagerness to rearrange their products. Now CD-ROMs such as Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World let consumers assemble sampled beats and film clips into personalized versions of their favorite tunes and music videos. And Web sites such as CDNow allow you to buy individual songs and create a customized compact disc.
Thankfully, we can now give thanks that Xplora 1 helped render Peter Gabriel as obsolete as an 8-track tape player. But websites were you can buy individual songs? Who'da thunk it? More on the amazing pace of technological change that immediately gets taken for granted here.