The iPod Was My Gateway Drug


image: flickr/wicker_man
image: flickr/wicker_man


  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.