iPod 40Gb R.i.P

The iPod is like a piece of jewellery. Polished stainless steel at the rear, and glossy white resin at the front. It's weight indicates a serious product, full of technology. It's just a shame that I left it on plane a year and five months after I bought it.

In truth my first thought was 'thank fuck for that'. The quiet tyranny of the iPod had slowly taken hold during the course of the last year. Music had taken on a different, shallower meaning. The iPod was turning my music collection into muzak.

The iPod came wonderfully packaged. The experience of unpacking the pod itself was worth a a few quid. Of all the new products that you are scared to use at first, the iPod is one of the best examples. I unpacked it, looked at it, dirtied it, cleaned it, and packed it up again.

Having ripped my CDs, which took a week, I transferred my iTunes library to my iPod and started to luxuriate in the possibilities of playing any of my CDs according to my whim. Experimenting with the menu I found the EQ setting, which allows songs to be played at different EQ settings (like having a graphic equaliser with 20 presets). I picked the acoustic setting which seemed to find a hidden depth to my CDs, bringing out the spatial aspects of guitar or voice.

The Piano turned out to be more complex though. After a while I began to hear distortion in places that I hadn't expected it. It was fairly subtle, but it was there. I noticed it when the piano played loud, or in a sudden rock music creshendo. I noticed it on The Koln Concert and on Amnesiac by Radiohead. I hadn't expected this. I started listening harder and the distortion was joined by faint clicks. At first I put them down to samples from vinyl (DJ Shadow for example), but I began to hear them on the supersmooth Keane. What was this? I went back to my CDs and played them through my Hi-Fi to try and work out what it was. Sure enough the clicks were there, but barely audible. The pod was accentuating them. On the Hi-Fi the distortion wasn't there, that was a pure artifact of the pod.

Once you've noticed something annoying it's difficult to un-notice it. My perfect iPod was beginning to seem a little less than perfect. When the touch sensitive clickwheel started to malfunction it got even worse. It happened late one night. I'd put the pod on hold, so I didn't accidently actuate any of the buttons, but when I took it off hold there were dead zones on the click wheel, zones where my finger caressing instructions were being ignored. Flicking the hold switch off and on sometimes seemed to solve this, but the problem seemed to stick. One day the whole clickwheel went dead and I resolved to send the pod back to its maker and get it replaced, but the day after the clickwheel was working perfectly. In the end the solution was not to put the pod on hold and risk pressing play accidently and discharging the battery.

Over the course of a year my life had also changed. From having a fifteen minute walk to work - perfect pod listening time - and using public transport - ideal pod listening space, I went to a 50 minute drive to work and using my new car as the primary means of getting around. My pod was becoming redundant. Every now and then I'd put it on when I was doing something around the house, and sometimes I liked to drift off to sleep with the pod on, but generally the pod would slowly discharge without being played.

There was, however, a more serious problem. I was beginning to be irritated with my music collection. It started with the 'various artist' compilation albums. Usually when I selected an album to listen to I'd scroll down the list of artists. But once I'd ripped a couple of compilation CDs the list of artists would include names that I'd never heard of (Sheep on Drugs for example), with just one song, alongside artists like The Pet Shop Boys with five albums worth of songs. According to the iPod's menu system these two were given equal weight. This frustrated the hell out of me. I know I could have got rid of all the compilations, but there were some compilations that I liked. The problem was deeper than that though. Even if I only had CDs of one artist, presented as a big list, they all tended to look the same. Normally I'd be drawn toward some feature of the CD case, some colour maybe, I'd be attracted by eye. Here I had nothing but a name, and the name gave no sense of the music.

Then there was shuffle mode. Engaging shuffle mode on the iPod is meant to play songs in your whole library or playlist in a random order. The problem was it wasn't random. Out of 2500 songs three out of 10 songs would come from the same album. Statistically possible of course, but highly unlikely. Even the randomness wasn't working!

So, like I say, when I realised I'd left it on the plane I was kind of relieved. All my Pod problems went away at a stroke. I hadn't lost any music, even though there were 2500 songs on the Pod. They were safely backed up in my iTunes library. And really there was no bereavement. Especially when I realised that I might actually be insured for the loss. I'd got free travel insurance when I'd taken out a new bank account.

The claim took a while to put together but guess what? They paid out. £198 for my ex-white-hot peice of electronic jewellery.