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One word about i-Pods, you're toast

A favourite moment at university was at a first year tutorial when a Liverpudlian mate, Frank, roused himself from slumber and entered the discussion with an authoritative: "This reminds me of Dante's Inferno... "

Then, with the comic timing so attributed to his home town, he fed into our slack-jawed silence: "Well, I haven't actually read Dante's Inferno - but it's like I imagine it would be." Despite Dante's magnum opus being a similarly closed book to me, I was tempted to make the same comparison when I found myself in the bewildering basement of an Edinburgh department store. Formerly, it would have been called "electrical goods", but now it had a designation akin to "home leisure and entertainment".

To continue the high falutin' literary strain, everything was, as Yeats may have suggested, "changed, changed utterly". Televisions, once fat and bulky, have become slim and sleek (while I have journeyed precisely in the opposite direction); radios have become the very dab - digital I believe, while some kind of retro fashion means they resemble nothing so much as the portable Dansette upon which the teenage me listened to Radio Caroline under the bedclothes.

The biggest change, though, seems to have taken place in what was once called the Hi-Fi section. When I bought my home system, 25 years ago, it was simple: the bigger the speakers and the more tangled the spaghetti - the better the sound. Now, I was faced with a selection of tiny gleaming marvels that looked like they may have originated in Nasa's R D department.

However, I have left my Luddite days behind me and consider myself at least as smart as some of the interactive whiteboards that grace our classrooms.

I recently purchased a gadget that lets me play my i-Pod in the car, and I thought I would invest in something similar for the home front. This would mean that I would have access, home and away, to a thousand songs that annoy the family intensely, especially when I sing along.

After much chin stroking, I selected a particularly racy piece of kit and asked the spotty youth who was serving: "Are those speakers compatible with an i-Pod Mini?" It was then he told me I was pointing at a toaster.

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston

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