German filmmaking giant Werner Herzog speaks often about our culture suffering from a 'lack of adequate imagery.' This means that you walk into the dentist's office and there's that same damn picture of the Grand Canyon or a Moulin Rouge poster. Since Herzog now lives where I do, I'll take his theory a step further and proclaim that we are really suffering from a lack of adequate sound imagery. If I ever hear the Beatles again, I'll slit my throat. Gwen Stefani? Your throat. Thankfully, Steve Jobs solved this problem by developing the iPod.
Mind you, I can't stand Apple. Their computers are too expensive, nothing runs on them and it took the company twenty-five years to figure out what a right-click button is. However, the iPod is the greatest invention of the last decade. Sure, there are other MP3 players out there (quick, name two) but there is also Betamax, Laserdisc and for Americans, Diesel. Plus, all my friends have iPods so not only can we swap music, but at the weekly poker game we can fight over what gets played in the iBoom-box. Mine holds 60 gigabytes of music (which I think is 92 trillion songs) so now I have an entire lifetime's worth of music that I enjoy in my pocket. Stuck in line at the post office? Great. Even long plane trips are ten times more enjoyable than they once were. And seeing as how the average American spends five years of their life cocooned inside an automobile, all the better.
Except that carmakers are stupid. Apple's iPod has been around for five-years. I own a brand new car and I can't plug my iPod into it. Stupid. And not just my car, but nearly all cars lack the ability to let me listen to what I want to listen to. Big stupid. Especially when you consider that big Autobahn-stormers and wanna-be Autobahn-stormers routinely offer $5,000 stereo options. Some might argue that these cars have multi-disc in-dash changers. So? I don't want 1/10th of one percent of my music collection; this isn't 1995. And I especially don't want to change CDs while going 80 mph around a bend. But satellite radio offers dozens of commercial free music stations to keep your ears happy. Hogwash. You know the cliché about 500 channels of cable yet there isn't ever a damn thing on TV? Ditto. Worse. Besides, everything I could ever possibly want to hear is in my pocket, you bastards!
This means that I have to spend an additional $90 on a radio transmitter for my iPod. On paper it makes sense. Plug the thingy into the cigarette lighter, tune to a predefined station and voila, your music is served. But not so fast. It sounds shitty, as you are still listening to FM radio and not digital music. More infuriating is when you are listening to that really sublime part of your favorite song and you happen to pass under power lines. If you are lucky you get static; if you are me you get dreaded Mexican polka. Moreover, even if you are out in the desert where there are no power lines or errant stations to gunk up your transmitter, you still have a three-foot cable hanging out of your dash, usually resting right where you row the gears. And it still sounds lousy.
There are a few cars out there, namely those aimed at the XBOX generation, that have input jacks and AUX buttons for your iPod. But would you be caught dead in a Scion Xb? Didn't think so. A few cars adults might enjoy driving have iPod inputs, but like Saab's 9-3 that has the jack inside the center armrest, clearly they are afterthoughts. And as the Xb's website states, 'You must use your MP3 player's interface to navigate and play your collection.' Which, in the age of Bluetooth and voice recognition is not only stupid, it's dangerous. Moreover, with 92 trillion songs at the ready, in shuffle mode I am constantly curious as to what I'm listening to.
There is a solution. Remember 8-Tracks? You know: the big boxy tapes that you stuffed into a hole in the dash. The original plug'n play. Carmakers — do that with iPods! Let me insert my iPod into a dedicated slot. Then, let me use your controls to pick what I want to hear and let me see which song is playing. When I exit the vehicle, I'll yank it out and go. VW recently demontrated a similar system– with software that talks to your chest freezer. It will will either never see the light of day or arrive on dealer lots five minutes before the next killer app renders the iPod obsolete. Music lovers need a simple and reliable iPod interface. And we need it now.
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