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Author: Benjamin Golze

“WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!”

If some caveman had been frozen for the past 10,000 years and woke up today, and I ran into him as he stumbled out of the Green Mountains, that is what I might say to him. A caveman deserves as much warm-hearted hospitality as anyone else. Then again, I consider myself a pretty friendly guy. Other people might be frightened by the caveman’s impressive facial hair and thick, knotted club. But not me. Communicating via a complicated language of grunts that I perfected with my male friends in high school, I would dazzle the emissary from the Ice Age with various marvels of the modern (or post-modern) age. Chief among these fascinating technological advances would be my digital music collection.

“Don’t you see?!” I would exclaim, arms waving wildly about my head. “There are no CDs, no records, no tapes! All is in here!” I would exclaim, pointing either to my computer or my MP3 player. But then I would lean in close. “But there is one problem. Digital music is convenient in many ways, but how shall I play it off my computer? So many options, yet which is the best? That, friend, is the great dilemma of my generation.” The caveman would give a solemn, knowing nod at this statement.

Since Apple dropped the PC version of iTunes a couple of years ago, the music player has been, to use an SAT word, ubiquitous. Now the soothing white and blue ergonomic curves of Apple’s music software can be found on even the most aged of student-discount Dells. The trend is understandable, seeing as there are many benefits to using iTunes. For example, the software natively and intuitively supports the iPod, which everyone has, and there is the nifty music sharing aspect, which lets you play other people’s music over the network.

Or so I’ve been told. See, I don’t use iTunes. I have to admit that for a while I didn’t switch over because I was “too cool” for iTunes. Apple products are designed for the lowest common denominator and iTunes was no exception. But then, one day, my stubbornness cracked and I downloaded the program, only to be baffled and to crawl back into the warm confines of my own archaic music player, the venerable Winamp. Also, my MP3 player isn’t an iPod, which really hurts the whole compatibility thing.

When it comes down to it, people today really only have two options: iTunes and Winamp. The proprietary music players for most non-iPod MP3 players are buggy and pathetic, and as far as managing a music library goes, Windows Media Player is some kind of sick joke. Winamp, I firmly believe, is where it’s at. A hugely powerful music library and customization options dwarfs iTunes. And the latest versions supports all major portable MP3 players, so poor saps like me with Creative digital music devices don’t have to switch to their screwy program to upload music.

Unfortunately, Winamp lacks the sharing aspect of iTunes and burning and adding new music takes a bit more legwork than it should. Both of these seem to have become next to necessary for any iTunes user. The option of sharing music is particularly genius, as it introduces what my single economics class taught me is a “network externality” – the more people who use it, the more the benefit to everyone. And so we fall into the trap I mentioned in one of my earlier rants. That is, an Apple-dominated digital music world – a world that leaves little room for the everyman such as myself: people who just want a bit more control of their digital music libraries.

By this point, the caveman would probably be eating my dog’s food out of the bowl.

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The Student News Site of Middlebury College
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