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Papa, `i' need a Pod!

The world's smallest portable music player — and the most famous — is here. This is how it works and sounds

THERE WAS a time not too long ago when owning a walkman was a sign of a music addict who needed to hear his music on-the-move. Clipping the cassette tape sized battery-operated box on to your belt with the earphone wire dangling out was sure to make a few heads turn. The CD version of the walkman (called the `discman') replaced the box with an uthappam-sized gadget which played CDs and obviously a superior quality sound to the listener. But, the turn of the century changed the global concept of music technology.

Both the walkman and the discman needed a physical medium of some sort to `carry' the music, but with music freely (literally and otherwise) available on the Internet, one does not really need to transfer the music on to any storage medium (in the MP3 format) and play it. Your music gadget becomes the storage medium and player rolled into one. Welcome to the world of the iPod.

Apple's iPod was launched in 2001 as a niche device which allowed you to download music from the Internet directly to the player. The first iPod could store around 10 hours of music and had a tiny 1.8 inches hard drive inside it. Technologically, it was a marvel, but the whopping $400 price tag put off some music lovers. The second edition of the iPod slashed the price by around 20 per cent and released the product in 5 GB and 10 GB versions. The player was a breakthrough all right, but where does one download the music from? iPod had an answer to that as well. is the name of the website which provides a catalogue of song titles which you can download at a price of about $0.99 per song. Firstly, it saves you the hassle of buying an entire album for just a song or two, and you have probably heard the song a number of times before deciding to `purchase' the song. Today, the prices of song downloads vary according to genre and year of release.

Now in India

Apple launched the Mini iPod recently in India. With a storage capacity of over a 1,000 CD-quality songs, the chhota iPod costs something like Rs. 19,500. It is almost double the price of your comparison to your uthappam player, but the increased mobility and choice of music it provides is well worth the price you pay. All you need to do is to plug-in the chhota iPod into your PC and download the songs from it.

We got our hands on the product recently, and it is definitely something to write home about. Just a little bigger than a visiting card, the chhota Pod does away with those tiny (mostly unnecessary) buttons. The world's smallest music player comes in a choice of four colours. It has a very sensitive and smooth scroller (the sort you find in high-end mobile phones) which controls all the functions from volume to track order and the equaliser. The sound quality provided by the tiny white earphone is amazing and creates an automatic surround effect inside your ears. You also get a mini power adapter and a choice of cables to attach to your personal computer — "Firewire", a Apple PC standard and USB that most IBM PCs now mate with.

Downloading from Apple's international iTunes site is clearly not a good option in the country and one would have thought they would create an Indian gateway which accepts payment in rupees. Meanwhile, the musically young n' restless can always download the PC way. Forget the uthapam, it's time to have a biscuit!



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