I didn’t really get a chance to finish the story I was trying to tell last week. Part of the problem was that I didn’t really know exactly what kind of story I was trying to tell when I started out. I’m still not entirely sure. But I’m going to keep telling it, and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully somebody other than me finds it interesting.
I guess I’m trying to go back and look over the history of my engagement with technology. It’s difficult to explain why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that I majored in history in college, and I have a fascination with tracking the histories of all sorts of things, including my own tastes. I don’t really have a better reason than that.
I mentioned last week that when I finally bought a Zune, I actually ended up buying two. This was in the fall of 2007. Originally, I was planning to buy a Zune 80. This was the second-generation Zune device, which was announced in October 2007 and released in November. I loved my Creative Zen Sleek Photo, but it only had a 20GB hard drive, and I desperately wanted more space. The Zune 80, as the name implies, had an 80GB hard drive, so I was very excited about that. I preordered one the day it was announced, and I anxiously awaited its release date.
And then I discovered Woot. Woot, if you don’t know, is a deal-a-day website. In other words, every day they sell one thing, usually some kind of consumer electronics device. They sell that one thing for 24 hours, or until they run out. And if they run out before midnight, they sell nothing else until midnight hits. Well, one day, they were selling a 1st generation Zune, or Zune 30, for a ridiculously cheap price. And I heard about it through a Zune fan site called Zunerama. Unfortunately, I was too late to take advantage of this deal, but that is how I found out about Woot, a site I’ve checked almost every day since.
But Woot wasn’t done selling Zunes. A little while later, they had more Zunes for even cheaper (black ones for a hundred dollars, I think). But I still wanted to hold out for the 2nd generation Zune 80, even though I knew it would cost $250. But my wife did get one this time. And when it came, it was lovely. And I was incredibly jealous. So when Woot sold brown Zunes for 80 bucks a pop, I realized that if I got two of them, I would have almost as much storage as if I got a Zune 80, and I would save almost a hundred bucks. And I would get it sooner. So I bought two brown Zunes and cancelled my Zune 80 preorder.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I regretted that decision, but I will say that I still wanted a Zune 80 even after I got my two Zune 30s. I thought maybe that if I got a Zune 4 (which was a small flash-based Zune that was designed to compete with the iPod Nano) I would be content, since the Zune 4 had the same sleek design and streamlined controls as the Zune 80. So I asked my mom to get me one for Christmas, and she, being the lovely and generous woman that she is, got me a Zune 8 instead, which was the same thing but with double the storage for 50 more dollars.
And yet, I still wasn’t satisfied. Two Zune 30s and a Zune 8 did not make up for the lack of a Zune 80. So I finally broke down and convinced everyone I knew to pitch in and buy me one for my birthday. I believe I also sold one of my Zune 30s to my sister-in-law as well. And all was right with the world.
Of course, that’s not true. I still maintain that the Zune 80 (and it’s near-identical follow-up, the Zune 120) is the best hard-drive based MP3 player ever made. The problem was two-fold. One, technology isn’t made to last, and so it was with my beloved Zune 80. And two, technology inexorably marches on, and new and better things are always around the corner.
I had a couple of problems with my Zune 80, the first of which was entirely my fault. I’d only had it for a few months when I took it in the bathroom, turned it on, went to wipe the screen off on my shirt, and dropped it on the floor while it was still booting up. As you can imagine, that killed it. Fortunately, it was still under warranty, and Microsoft happily sent me a new one, despite the fact that it was completely my fault that it died.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my poor Zune’s misfortunes. One day, the hold switch was acting weird, and so I was wiggling it back and forth, trying to get it to work properly, when all of a sudden I heard a small “crack”, and the switch broke off of whatever it was attached to on the inside. This meant that I could no longer lock my Zune, which meant that if I had it in the back pocket of my jeans and I bent over to pick something up, my butt would turn the volume all the way up, which then meant that I would have to quickly rip my headphones out of my ears or risk going deaf. Not fun.
But even if my Zune 80 was still working perfectly to this day, there’s always something newer and more exciting. In this case, it was the Zune HD. One thing that the Zune 80 didn’t do that I really wanted it to do was browse the internet. I really wanted a handheld device with a web browser, but the iPod Touch was pretty much the only option, unless I wanted to get a smartphone, which I didn’t. So I kept hoping that Microsoft would come out with an answer to the iPod Touch, and finally, in May 2009, they revealed that they did in fact have such a device in the works: the Zune HD.
Unfortunately, this is getting really long, so I’ll have to continue this epic saga next week. I’m sure you can wait. Go watch a movie or something. It’ll be fine.