Chippewa Herald * February 28, 2007  

iPod was worth the wait, even for a cheapskate

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

Another February is almost gone. February means many things to many people. For me, it means it's time to buy calendars for the new year!

No, I'm not that bad a procrastinator. I'm just a cheapskate (more kindly known as "a good steward of my resources"). I've noticed that the daily calendars that go for $14 in December are marked down to ONE DOLLAR by the second week of February! I can't resist the deal -- there is still 90% of the year left (47/52 weeks), but the price is down to 7% of the list price (1/14).

So each February I make my semi-annual trek down to the Big City and plunk down a few hard-earned bucks in Oakwood Mall to pick up a bunch of calendars for family members. This year's crop of Valentine's Day gifts included Dilbert, Far Side, Packers, Golden Retrievers, Paper Airplanes, and even a calendar that featured one outline drawing each day to be watercolored. (The latter was intended for my lovely wife, but my daughter has been using it...who would've known that a mother of five doesn't have time to watercolor every day?!)

I'm also cheap when it comes to electronics. As a long-time shareholder in Apple Computer, I have watched with keen interest the iPod's domination of the portable music player market. Despite my admiration, I couldn't bring myself to actually buy one. Until December that is, when I found one on eBay -- only two years old but already down to a third of its original price.

I really have no plans to dance around in subway stations with my ear buds inserted, as the iPod advertising suggests. What I really wanted was a replacement for my CD player in my home stereo cabinet.

I love to listen to background music at home. I have wired every room in the house for its own volume control and ceiling speakers, all coming from a "wiring closet" under the basement steps.

Six years ago I bought a "CD Jukebox" that holds 300 CDs. I could put every CD I own into the system, and it could play them continually, either in order or randomly.

Unfortunately, this unit broke down after three years. (Overuse?) I thought maybe the Pioneer was a lemon, so I bought the same type of CD jukebox in a Sony model.

Once again I was a happy camper, listening to everything from Frank Sinatra to barbershop quartets while working around the house. Lo and behold, the Sony jukebox, too, failed after three years. There had to be a better way.

I thought for sure that with digital music now in the mainstream, somebody would come up with a boxy console unit simply to play music through a stereo system without charging extra for miniaturization. But I could find nothing of the sort.

Running wires from the computer to the stereo amp wasn't a good option, since that would require a dedicated computer. I looked into buying a cheap laptop to sit on top of the stereo cabinet, but that still cost too much.

Eventually yielding to the siren song of the iPod, I took the plunge. I zeroed in on the iPods with the most storage space before the color screens came out, and ended up with a 30 Gigabyte fourth-generation iPod for $130 on eBay.

Getting all my CDs into the iPod was not as hard I as I thought -- reading in a CD and converting to the "mp3" format is all automated, so it doesn't take much effort, although it does take some time.

But before we knew it, our entire CD collection was on the computer. In Apple's iTunes software, we set up several "playlists" that group similar songs together. In December, we got a lot of use out of the "Christmas" playlist, which would shuffle through our 339 Christmas songs in random order.

The iPod sitting on top of my stereo cabinet truly is better in every way than the clunky mechanical CD jukeboxes I used to have.

What's REALLY great, though, is that we were able to take the iPod along on our "Granddaughter of all Vacations" over Christmas break, when we drove 4200 miles to Miami and back. With the iPod and a transmitter, we were able to listen to any song from our entire music collection!

I quickly brought up "Basin Street Blues" while driving on the real Basin Street in New Orleans, and found Frank Sinatra's "Chicago" while touring through that toddlin' town on New Year's Day.

Better yet, I even downloaded some "podcasts" just for fun. Those are simply mp3 files just like songs, except that they contain any sound, not just music. You can listen to a podcast on a computer or any digital music device.

While cruising through Indiana, we listed to Ronald Reagan's speech at the 1964 Republican convention as he introduced Barry Goldwater. Later we listened to Reagan's 1981 inauguration speech, and some old Abbot and Costello radio routines along with modern radio recordings. Fascinating!

The iPod is here to stay in our family, whether it's playing relaxing Christmas melodies at home or Dave Ramsey podcasts on the open road.


You can reach Tom at

Links: [Tom's column archives] | [] | [] |

This page is maintained by Tom Arneberg (
(Last modified: $Date: 2007/03/08 16:01:47 $)