I was in the midst of transferring my blog from its old home on WordPress to this new space on the Middlebury website when I start messing around with this post, which highlights a gadget I recently purchased (more on that in a moment) but also speaks more generally to the pleasures of digital convergence. For me, these pleasures are mostly about music, namely the ability to move music from the internet and CDs to computers to iPods and back again. I grew up in the age of vinyl, and began buying record albums with money I earned from a paper route I had in junior high. The excitement I felt in purchasing new records—at $3.99 a pop if I was lucky, and less when I turned my attention to used records—was later matched by the thrills of surfing for music on the internet and ripping and burning CDs.
Soon after getting my first iPod, I was so infatuated that I tried to describe its power:
Pop music provides us an emotional autobiography, an enduring record of what we felt at key moments in our lives, especially times of romance. Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (1996) and the movie based on that novel beautifully dramatize this chronicling power. But the mp3 player, of which the iPod is the exemplar, tells a different kind of story. Whereas Hornby’s hero obsessively rearranges his album collection to suit his mood and prepares mixed tapes to express himself to friends and mark special occasions, he remains stuck in the analogue age. Not the iPod user. Connected by USB cable and synchronization to his computer and a music library that can be expanded at will by “ripping” cds or by downloading individual songs and albums from the internet—he begins where many record collectors wanted to end up: with a “jukebox” (an old-fashioned name for a computer directory) that is designed to sort, organize, and create personalized “playlists.” And he can carry it all away in a package slightly bigger than a cassette tape—virtually, life in the palm of a hand.
When I wrote that that, I felt like I was tapping into something new. Now that iPod is old and I have some distance on that first love, I have moved to a new crush: the Squeezebox.
Made by Logitech, the Squeezebox is a small device, about the size of an envelope, that plugs into the back of my receiver/amplifier and wirelessly streams music from my computer to the stereo. The effect is like like playing an iPod through a stereo system, except that the Squeezebox has access to all the music files on your computer, which for most people means more capacity. The Squeezebox also allows you to stream internet radio stations, as well as subscription services like satellite radio and Rhapsody. The promise is a wholly digital music system, and the Squeezebox delivers, without much sacrifice in sound.
At the risk of turning this post into a full-blown infomercial, I will also say that the Squeezebox is reasonably priced.