Amping your Tunes

I grew up in a home that exposed me to plenty of phonographic material. My parents made no effort to hide it from me; I was encouraged to enjoy it as much as I wished -often until I had it memorized.

We had hundreds of titles stashed behind the sliding-door of a cabinet in our living room. My parents would sit on the floor in front of the cabinet and choose favorites to play for the evening's dinner guests. I can still see the titles -spread out, waiting to be pulled from their colorful jackets and queued up for a good time.

Sometimes guests brought their own titles to share with Mom and Dad. After I went upstairs to bed, I could still hear the muffled sounds of the adults playing them late into the night, laughing and replaying the best parts.

When our old phonograph broke I realized the huge number of records we had accumulated. At an eighth of an inch wide, hundreds -maybe a thousand lined our cabinet. They were packed so snugly that their spines felt like the bark of a tree if you ran your fingers across them. Together they must have weighed fifty pounds or more.

We had 8-track tapes too. Finding an 8-track title was easier because our cool, rotating 8-track carousel spun, giving a good view of all the labels.

Being a cutting edge family, we jumped into the audio cassette tape craze in the late 70's. Cassettes were smaller and easier to lose than records. Soon a cassette tape in our house might be found tucked between sofa cushions or forgotten in our fancy, automobile, audio cassette player. By 1980, our home was perfect for a musical treasure hunt.

CD's introduced yet more music to organize. Since they replaced the 8-track and audio cassettes, one would think the consolidation would decrease clutter, but it didn't. When I got my first apartment I had CD's in every room, in my car and some lost to thieving friends who never returned them. (If you're reading this Jimmy, you still owe me my Van Halen 1984 and, no, I won't forget it.) Inventory control became a serious problem.

Apple's free iTunes program has been a Godsend for people who have taken the time to import their CD collections into it. It can consolidate and organize the clutter of a thousand albums onto an iPod.

If, like me, you have a stereo system with old fashioned inputs labeled CD, AUX or even PHONO, take heart; iTunes can pump all your music through your ancient amplifier with the help of an easy-to-set-up device called an Airport Express with AirTunes. Apple's Airport Express is a fully functional Internet router and a music bridge between your computer and home stereo.

If you have a wired or wireless home network, the Airport Express comes with simple, non-geeky instructions to help you make the connection between your computer and your amplifier. All you'll need for the connection is a standard stereo cable -sold as an option if you don't already have one. To confirm its use with your home network, check apple.com and enter Airport Express into the search box.

Apple doesn't need my promotional help; their music products sell well. But I mention this one because it is truly easy for the average consumer to set up. And it makes it easy to pump your iTunes music through your home stereo system -phonographic style!

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