|The 'Brick' on holiday in 2005|
The end was inevitable but fortunately I had made contingency plans and was ready for it. Eight years after purchasing my Creative Zen mp3 player the time had come to say goodbye to what was affectionately known by its many fans as 'the brick' and become part of the I-Pod Classic army.
The Zen had a good following among music lovers and if the world of computers and IT operated on any sort of level playing field it would be as much a household name as the ubiquitous Apple range of products. Ask most aficionados about it and they will tell you about its better sound range, it's ability to play any genre of music and sound perfect, for a hard disk player it was extremely hard wearing - as I know having dropped it on numerous occasions. It was however slowly squeezed out of the market, I know from the old BBC days that some people owned several of them, possibly squirreling them away knowing that their days in the sun wouldn't be as long as other products.
When the original was launched it was miles ahead of any competition in terms of capacity, it couldn't play videos or hold photographs but nor could your old record player and that sounded great as well. I had just under 6,500 songs on mine when it finally ceased to function at any worthwhile level, the life of the battery diminishing with every play, fortunately I had backed all the songs up to a external hard drive and everytime I added music - which itself had become something of a chore as Zen didn't support Windows 7 - that would also go on the back-up.
I have no complaints about it at all, it's just a shame that it had, to use the technical term, reached it's end of life. Having looked around for a replacement I was shocked at how little capacity mp3 players hold. I wanted something that was a direct replacement, something portable with a decent size capacity and good reviews on a host of websites. I'd always resisted any Apple products in the past simply because I wasn't that excited by their sound quality but having eliminated all other contenders for my money they looked like the only option. The way I listen to music has changed over the years, the days of sitting in front of a stereo listening to an album are a distant memory, something that really only happens at Christmas and birthdays. I now spend more time listening at my computer whilst processing photographs or writing, or at the gym, or in the car. I rejected the idea of one of those 'Brennan' style hard drive players because firstly they lack true portability and secondly I couldn't face the hassle of copying all my music from one hard drive to another, some of which would need digital relabelling. In the end I went for the 160GB I-Pod Classic ('only' 148GB can be used for storing music) which seemed to have more positive feedback than negative.
So far so good. Just a month in and no problems. The transfer of music from my back-up went smoothly, some 8,000 songs moving effortlessly in just over an hour. It has the capacity to store another 16,000 songs but I have an idea that I will be dead long before that number is added! You can also store videos and photographs on it but that's not why I bought it. I haven't bought into the whole I-Tunes Store idea either, I buy all of my online music via Amazon but I do use the I-Tunes software interface which I think is great, the idea of being able to add the album artwork to the information on the pod appeals to the nerd in me. I also purchased a case to keep it in which, unlike the one that my Zen spent its life in, has a top that closes as well as a bottom, my poor Zen bounced off one to many concrete floors as I picked it up from the wrong end!
I had resisted Apple for years, simply because of that streak in me that said if everybody is so desperate for one there must be something dodgy with it, inverted cultural snobbery if you will but now I've joined the club.
I also bought a Sony Docking Station to use to play music in the lounge when I'm down there on my own, and I seem to have got the best of both worlds, revisiting those days when I would sit for hours playing CD after CD through the autochanger and a portability which means I can take that music wherever I want, even the docking station is portable. Now all I need to do is bite the bullet and dispose of a few hundred CD's that I haven't played for years, trouble is that just as vinyl did before it there's an emotional story behind many of those CD's and I can't quite make that final decision.