Like everyone of my generation, I could have been seen walking around the playground with a transistor radio, as we called them, plugged into my ear, listening intently to mono music and sports events. That was about as portable as music got for us. Then came that magic trip to the beach, in the course of which I got my first Walkman and spent the next hour sitting by the ocean and listening to Pharoah Sanders's Tauhid. Problem was, you had to carry around an ever growing collection of tape cassettes, and yes, I did have one of those bulky cassette case things that took up way too much space in the car.
Comes the digital revolution and we have the portable CD player, an end to tape hiss and a vast improvement in sound quality, but yet more traveling cases full of CDs to lug around.
This was my first "PDA," and I'd only had it about five minutes when I realized I could rip CDs to digital and listen to them on this thing. That's when the dream of having all my music with me all the time formed in my brain. But of course, this thing could only hold about as much as I'd listen to in one afternoon's walking around, which seemed and seems to be enough for most people with their smart phones, but was entirely unsatisfactory for me.
My first dedicated MP3 player held only 20 GB, and was heavy as a brick, but it introduced me to the Archos line of products.
I tried one of these little MP3 players that fit easily in your shirt pocket, but it held even less that the first Archos.
Then Apple started the iPod phase. Again, the first one only held a small amount of music, and Apple wanted to lock you into their iTunes universe AND the battery sucked.
I used part of the money I got when Apple settled the court cases about the iPod battery to buy my first iRiver player. This held much more music, didn't require you to use a proprietary software, and allowed navigation by folder rather than the all too limiting "artist, album, song, genre" nonsense that Apple got us all stuck in. iRiver really knew how to design an interface.
Along the way I tried an RCA device. It was a good idea, but I had to ship the first one back immediately because it was defective, and the replacement didn't last much past the warranty period.For the next several years, as I've written here before, I had my music collection parcelled out between three 500 GB Archos media tablets. These were wonderful Android devices, with the usual Archos attention to quality. Sounded better than Apple products and afforded a great deal more flexibility. But Archos stopped manufacturing the larger capacity devices, which threw me back to Apple. Drat! So, as a 500 GB Archos would eventually give up the ghost, I would replace it with two iPod Classics -- But now Apple has followed Archos into the land of small ambitions, and the Classic is no longer available.
But I am no longer a frustrated listener dragging five or more devices through the TSA checkpoints of America. Now, with the iBasso, and a handful of these 256 GB jump drives, I travel with my entire music collection in my bag at all times, AND I can listen to lossless files on the thing -- This gives me the sound quality of Neil Young's PonoPlayer with none of its limitations. On the way home for Thanksgiving Break, I was listening to a lossless recording of Stevie Wonder's SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE CONCERT at the Verizon Center in D.C. -- Talk about your freindly skies.