Fad Come Revolution

In a recent story, Dell CEO Kevin Rollins called the iPod “a fad.”
This got me thinking about the real impact the popularity of the iPod has had on my own life, and led me to to some pretty interesting conclusions.
I bought my wife an iPod Mini as a graduation present, and it has been invaluable ever since. That is not, however, why I think the iPod is so revolutionary. I love it not for what it does, but for how it has changed people’s perceptions.

Before the iPod, when I would tell people I was on a Mac they would be taken aback. “Aren’t you a programmer, though? A real geek?” Yes. The non-geeks would then respond, “Then shouldn’t you be on Windows?” whereas geeks would then respond, “Then shouldn’t you be using Linux?”

Thanks to the iPod, all of that has changed. Even devout Redmondites now shrug, nod, and sometimes are caught saying, “Yeah, I was thinking about getting one of those brand new really small, really cheap ones just to check it out.” Thank you, also, Mac Mini. Even hardcore anti-Redmondites are impressed at how easily I can install my favorite open source tools using Fink.

But this is not about my 15″ G4, or even OS X. It is because the iPod has made its indelible mark on popular culture that people understand what I first discovered when I switched from Comodore 64 to Macintosh 512K Enhanced.

I discovered it again in Electrical Engineering 1 at UC Berkeley, where on the first day of class they passed around the outer casing of a 1984 Macintosh computer. Inside, inscribed in plastic, were the signatures of the key players who made this computer possible. “This,” they said, “is what it means to take pride in engineering.”

Now I can share my own admiration for those who have taken pride and care to make some really excellent Apple products. Thanks to the iPod, I can share it with millions of people. And millions more seem to be slowly changing their minds, raising their heads and saying things like, “wow–that looks like it was really well designed.”

It’s taken a long time for me to stop getting funny glances when I tell people I use a Mac. But here we are. Thank you, iPod.