Bring the Noise

The evolution of portable audio

By Matthew McKinnon
Burton Shield iPod Jacket, 2003
Photo by

Burton Shield iPod Jacket, 2003

The iPod inspires a cottage industry of accessories: there are now more than 200 after-market products associated with Apple’s digital cocoon. Many are carrying cases, some more elaborate than others. Lagerfeld, for example, has designed a $1,500 US Fendi purse that can fit a dozen iPods. Burton Snowboards offers the Shield iPod Jacket ($360 US), with a specially designed chest pocket to carry the player and a “SOFTswitch” flexible control pad built into the left sleeve to control it. The pad runs the iPod’s play/pause, forward, reverse and volume functions. “Simply press a button on the sleeve and poof — the song changes. It’s like magic.” Headphone cords tuck inside the jacket’s lining, out of sight, deep inside the mind.

Dr. Michael Bull, a lecturer in media and culture at the University of Sussex in England, is the author of Sounding Out the City: Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life, a book about the social impact of portable sound. (Short answer: headphones + public space = private world.) He has asked thousands of iPod users how, when and why they listen to the devices. “[The iPod] is the 21st century’s first cultural icon,” Bull says. “It’s very much like the Walkman in that regard. Everyone says ‘Walkman’ rather than ‘personal stereo’ for a reason.”

The future of portable sound splits into two hemispheres: Apple versus everyone else. Apple is winning.

< Previous      Top^

More from this Author

Matthew McKinnon

Lethal Weapon
Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon decodes his new album
Mos unusual
The uncompromising career of rapper-actor Mos Def
Gossip hound
Getting face time with Canada's answer to Perez Hilton
Idol chatter
Sampling the celebrity bloggers
The shape of things to come
Predictions on the upcoming year in pop culture