I've been using iTunes since it was launched for Windows several months ago - or, as the 'date added' stamp of most of my library tells me, since 9:10 pm on October 16, 2003. At first I tried it just because it seemed, well, pretty and user-friendly, in that way that Mac applications tend to be. I was suitably impressed by centralized indexing, when I found I had six separate copies of Les Baxter's "Voodoo Dreams" and three of the Penguins' "Earth Angel," in separate folders, for some reason. But that was that, I thought; it was nice, but seemed a bit sluggish compared to the uber-tiny WinAmp. And then, over a period of about a week, I started noticing all the nifterrific special features, particularly ratings and smart playlists. By an ICQ log, I see that by October 22 I had remarked it was impressive enouch to warrant a place of honour in my Quicklaunch bar.
What I enjoy more than anything about iTunes is the way it's changed my music listening habits. Using WinAmp, manually creating playlists and navigating through Windows to get to files, I'd often forget I had certain things, and so would never listen to them. Then I'd find those files later, when I didn't feel like listening to them, and resented the space they took up, yet didn't want to delete them. In iTunes, I have a smart playlist, "Not Recently Played" - everything rated over two stars, played at least once, but not played in the last three weeks. I've now reached the point where it's become a naturally cycling phenomenon, to hear certain songs just about once every three weeks on a random playlist, and I love that. It makes me feel like I've taken control of the experience. The same applies to the separate smart playlists of "Unheard" for each star level, so I don't forget to listen to (at some point) those things I know I enjoy enough to have rated but wouldn't immediately think of bothering with. Ditto the time and date information iTunes keeps, in general; I can micromanage what doesn't fall into the smart playlists far more efficiently.
The effect of all this is to make my listening habits become ruthlessly efficient; it's not just a semi-leisure activity, a background soundtrack for work or exercise, but a sort of game: How many songs of a library that adds up to seven and a half days in length can I manage to listen to during any given period? Do I feel like getting new songs into the Most Often Played list? It's even easier, too, with an iPod, which may in fact be the most beautiful piece of hardware I've ever owned. (John Quincy iPod
, to my computer. Let it not be said I have a one-tracked mind in naming computing devices.*)
And that's why I love the combination so much. I've gone through other variations on the portable music experience - normal CD player, MP3 CD player, flash memory MP3 player, MiniDisc
(Lordy, what was I thinking?) player - and none let me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something with each song. None have let listening to music become so effortlessly enjoyable. Not that it's particularly astounding by this point, but Kudos to Apple from a long-time PC user.
*My primary computer's name on my home network: USS Defiant. Laptop: USS Sao Paulo. TiVo-esque PVR/server: USS Excelsior. PDA: USS Yangtzee Kiang. Roommate's computer I set up: USS Equinox. Yes, I'm a huge geek.