The iPod Was My Gateway Drug

The iPod Was My Gateway Drug  I arrived at this party pretty late — I’m probably the junior member here at the Cult of Mac, as far as Apple adoption goes. I haven’t discussed it directly with the entire staff, but I’m almost certain everyone else here had been using Steve’s gadgets long before I started.

My wholesale defection from PC to Mac finally happened in 2005, when I walked out of the Stonestown Galleria Apple Store, beaming, with a 12-inch iBook G4, never to return to the world of Windows. But the journey began two years earlier, when I met and fell in love with my first Apple product.

Yes, it was an iPod.

I had just driven down the coast from San Francisco to L.A. that summer when my CD player crapped out on me. MP3 players were in their ascendency, but they were still fairly primitive, expensive, and low on memory – but I’d had it with CD players.

I’d been exposed to the iPod only briefly at that point; I’d seen them in stores, but I had a Sony laptop. The iPod was Apple-only — I was forbidden. Besides, wasn’t Apple stuff expensive and kinda funky?

Then while scanning the row of MP3 players in a big-box electronics store, I saw it — a third-gen iPod, the one with the solid-state buttons. At $300, Its sexy, 10-gigabyte form was only $50 more than some crappy-looking MP3 player next to it with a fraction of the storage capacity. And — here’s the key — it was the first iPod that would easily connect to a Windows machine.

This was a huge turning point. “Holy crap,” I thought. “No brainer.”

A few weeks later, as I drove with my brother, his newlywed wife and their little minpin across country as they migrated from east to west coast, I was shocked at how easily more-or-less instant music gratification could be had. Out on the road, I’d suddenly get these cravings to listen to a song I han’t heard in years; then when we’d settled in for the night at a motel, I’d fire up my laptop and pluck the song from peer-to-peer service Kazaa (remember, these were the dark days before the iTunes Store) and listen to it the next day while cruising down the I-70. It was like magic; I was enthralled.

All through the drive, a thundering conclusion was forming in my mind: If Apple could make a music player as fantastically cool as my little iPod, what were their computers like? Maybe I was wrong about Apple; maybe I really should take a good look at a Mac.

But I was still hesitant. How hard would it be to switch? The interface looked really funky. And was there really a dearth of software available, as I’d been told?

Then I hatched up a semi-devious idea. My mom had been growing increasingly frustrated with a variety of Windows laptops she’d been let down by over the last year; I thought I’d encourage her to switch, which would help her out — and give me a way to check out the Mac system at the same time, without fully committing.

But Apple didn’t have the superb resources they do today to help new Mac owners. My mom foundered, and the silver MacBook Pro was quickly returned (sorry, mom. A few years later, after I bought my first MacBook, I helped her switch and she’s been happy with her own Mac ever since).

Still, the experience was enough to convince me that I wanted a Mac. A year later, my Sony laptop was stolen, and I walked into the Stonestown Galleria intent on walking out with a new iBook. One MacBook Pro, two MacBooks, three iPhones, an iPad and an iPod Mini, Nano and Shuffle later, I’m a firm believer in the Cult of Mac. And it was all because of that little iPod.

  • Image flickr/wicker_man”
  • Jay Alan Goodwin

    Great story. Thx for sharing it :)

  • Chris

    I think that’s the main purpose of iPods…make people convinced of Apple’s quality for a not-so-high price (or haters would say make them addicted to Apple products and unwilling to buy anything else) :D For me, it was the same, in 2008 finally wanted to have one of those cool iPods, and the iPod Touch was just new…when I opened my piggy bank, I saw that I actually had the money, so I bought one in the US…1,5 years later the home button failed and I got a refurbished model…yea iPods are not that good in quality, but at least the service is… so anyway, since I had to use iTunes, I tried out Safari too, which of course has the Apple Website as homepage initially…so my Attention turned to the Macbooks, which had the cool new Unibody at that time, so I ordered one for my mother and one for myself in Late 2008…I had to wait until Christmas, though, those were awefully long 2 weeks :D later I bought an iPhone 4, since I didn’t carry my crappy phone with my iPod Touch, and noone was able to call me xD
    so since I’m in Photo Editing and filming now (and gaming xD) I’m going to buy a powerful new MBP once they get updated :)
    That’s my story xD
    btw, my iPod Touch started our family’s switch to the Mac, except for my little sister, were all working on Macs now. My sister is going to get my old Macbook (of course I want to see some money for that :D )

  • Adrian

    Great Story

    I started with the same iPod purchased when i got my first iMac.

    I recently made the mistake of adding up how many iDevices (pad, pod, phone) I currently own (currently 10) and have owned but upgraded (4) and realised that perhaps I need to stop this addiction. The problem is apple keeps coming out with new shiny things that I NEED to have

    oh well – money is for spending

  • Chris

    having money comes from keeping money xD but saving in general is not good for the economics^^

  • Chris

    having money comes from keeping money xD but saving in general is not good for the economics^^

  • Gregz0r1

    My story is like those above, too. My first Apple product was the 4th(?) generation 20GB iPod. Then I went to the black ‘video’ iPod, but that only had 2 hours of battery life with video, so I wasn’t fully sold.
    At this time, iPods were just like any other piece of tech(I knew nothing of the Steve Jobs, or the history of Apple at all) that I’d owned, and I had no real emotion towards them.
    It was only when I got the iPod touch, in November 2007, that the ‘drug’ took hold.
    I began using YouTube a lot, and I came across various Apple videos(mainly from peestandingup’s channel), documenting Apple’s history and older keynotes, and I said to a friend of mine: “It seems that only Apple truly understands tech from the consumer’s point of view.”
    Id had generic Nokia feature phones up to this point, and after owning the touch, I knew that I had to get an iPhone.
    4 iPhones(4S is incoming) and 2 iPads later, I’m waiting for my crappy PC laptop to die, before the final piece of my jigsaw is complete, when I finally get myself a specced-out iMac.

  • Chris

    new MBPs are incoming, they’re on the german website but you can’t configure yet. 15 and 17 inch now have 2,2 and 2,4 ghz processors, and the small 15 inch MBP has got 512 mb of video ram…pricing hasn’t changed. 13 inch MBPs have 2,4 and 2,8 GHz processors + a larger hard drive. I can’t say anything about CTO options yet.
    I fear there’s no option for a matte screen anymore, as in the tech specs there’s no high-res screen displayed anymore. Maybe it’s just a mistake for now.

    I couldn’t find the new MBPs on the US website, though

  • Eric

    My experience was a little more simple than most. I really had no choice in the matter. I got ‘promoted’, and the computer they had set up for me was a Mac II (si model if memory serves me right). It looked cool, but the interface was what intrigued me more. It was better looking, less initimidating, and far more simple/intuitive than the Windows 1.0-3.0 that I had been accustomed to. I had a 1 day course in learning how to use the Mac. It took me another 4 days to get completely comfortable using it at work. And I haven’t looked back since. The Mac was so simple to use, that within a couple of months, I learned how to troubleshoot, access and fix most of my problems (as few as they were) with the computer, all on my own. I have never taken any of my Macs to get serviced. I’ve always upgraded and fixed all issues on my own. The Mac not only converted me to an Apple guy, it also helped me turn into an ‘IT’ guy, a closet tech geek, and a graphic designer. Which I realized was my calling, and have been doing it for almost 20yrs…on Mac systems.

  • upstatemacfan

    That story parallels mine fairly closely.  I actually hated the Macs we had in my school during the 90’s.  They couldn’t multi-task, and copy-pasting with the one button mouse was annoying.  However, once I got my first IPod, and saw Apple was doing with Mac OSX I quickly changed.  For what I use a computer for, there is nothing better than a Mac.

  • phone number lookup

    at least i know now why people are so into apples products

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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