Dedicated or Multipurpose?
Devices and computers come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like more traditional desktop machines — think iMacs — can do almost any task you throw at them, whereas some devices — iPods — just do one specific thing. These dedicated devices, whilst focusing on just one (or a few) tasks, try to excel at them: the underlying principle of dedicated devices is to do “one thing well”.
I own many dedicated devices and many multipurpose devices. A question I find myself wondering often is:
When should I use a dedicated device over a multipurpose device?
The most recent time I found myself having this internal discussion was when I tried to choose a portable music playing setup. It took me several hardware purchases, testing, and a lot of iteration before I finally found the system which was right for me. I can’t help but feel however, that if I’d only thought more about my priorities, my budget and the external factors affecting my entire listening experience before I made my initial decision, I’d have made the same journey to my final setup without mistakes along the way.
Hopefully this post will inspire you to not make the same mistakes I did: solve your problem the first time. Do it once, do it right.
This (hopefully short) anecdote will illustrate the journey I went through from a pretty generic listening experience right up to my current state of audiophile music bliss. I’ll cut out my boring past of musical endeavours.
This story starts late last year, when I bought my first pair of quality, over-ear headphones: the Audio Technica ATH-M50. At the time, the two devices I connected my headphones to were my Mac and my iPhone. When I wanted to seriously listen to an album, neither were great options for me because it was way too easy for me to get distracted by the other features of these devices to the detriment of my music experience:
If listening to music on my Mac, I’d keep checking Twitter, looking at emails and browsing the web — eventually these secondary tasks would invade so much of my attention that the music itself became a distraction and I’d pause it. This was clearly a problem.
When trying to seriously listen and absorb an album, I’d lie in bed with my iPhone, headphones connected and hit play. After a few minutes, my mind would begin to wander to Twitter, or, worse still, my iPhone would vibrate, letting me know someone else was trying to grab my attention.
Both these solutions resulted in a sub-optimal listening experience. I knew I could do better.
Distraction-free listening experience
Besides easy distraction, my iPhone wasn’t even great for storing music. Being only 16GB, my ~90GB music library wouldn’t even nearly fit in its flash storage and iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match still can’t compete with having a local copy of the music, to me — especially if I’m out and about in my local town. 3G is a luxury here and EDGE is even rarer. Data connectivity coupled with the questionable ability of iTunes Match to correctly match tracks means I’m slightly skeptical of the service.
After a brief fling with an old 32GB iPod Touch I had lying around (which was barely better than my iPhone due to its storage limitations), I decided an iPod Classic was the way to go.
I’d moved from a multipurpose computing device — the iPhone — to a dedicated music playback machine — the iPod Classic. I realised this and asked myself why. I think I’ve found the answer — and it’s something I feel strongly about.
If you truly care about something, you should put in a comprable amount of effort, time and attention to ensure you have the best. I’ve seen this overarching philosophy mentioned by Dustin Curtis, Ben Brooks and even Marco Arment in the past, but I’ve always felt one part was missing.
Striving for perfection (something I’ve been doing a long time) doesn’t mean objective perfection — the fastest, the thinnest, the biggest… — it means striving for your own subjective perfection. This nuance is vital.
I’m fully aware that some of you, reading this, will scoff at my use of an iPod Classic. I totally understand: I mean, it’s 2012, right?! But, for me, always Chasing my own Perfection, I’ve found a dedicated portable music setup works wonders. I can take all my music with me, without worrying about WiFi or cellular connectivity, quality concerns, or battery life. If these things aren’t a concern to you, find what is a concern and design your setup around those factors.
In life, find out what you care about, then ensure you have the best for you. As Ben Brooks says:
If you sit on it, sleep on it or use it for more than an hour every day, spend whatever it takes to get the best.
If you have your own story which resembles this quest for the best, please write about it and let me know! Contact me on Twitter or leave a comment below this article with your story. Next week, I’ll post a follow-up to this article, detailing some of my favourite stories. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.