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A few years back anyone who took even the slightest interest in computers was regarded with sniggering suspicion and treated as a figure of fun. To employ a much-overused term, they were seen as 'geeks': a group of hairy, unwashed, pimply, young and middle-aged men indulging in a minority hobby.
Now it's cool to be geeky and know a thing or two about technology, and one of the key reasons for this revolution has been the rise of fashion tech. Driven principally by Apple's phenomenally successful iPod music players, and to a lesser extent its range of iMacs and notebooks, computing has gone from being kept at arm's length to all touchy-feely.
And in the company's latest gadget - the iPod touch - Apple has taken that metaphor and turned it into reality. For its flagship flash-based media player it has dumped the click wheel in favour of a touchscreen-drive user interface. It's the one you've read so much about on the iPhone, but here without the hamstrung non-3G phone stuff.
Great, but isn't £279 a lot of cash to spend on a 16GB media player? Wouldn't you be better off with an iPod Classic? Well, there's not much in terms of raw specifications to distinguish it from the rest of the iPod range. You get the usual limited range of music file format support - just AAC, Apple Lossless and MP3 for music and H.264 and MPEG4 files for video. There's no FLAC, Ogg Vorbis or WMA support, nor any for DivX or WMV, MPEG1 or 2. Although very beautifully designed and fantastically thin at just 8mm, its pocket footprint is actually a little larger than a standard iPod, measuring 62mm wide by 110mm tall. And battery life is nothing to write home about either, weighing in at up to 22 hours for audio and a par-score five hours for video.
So can a simple touch screen really be worth paying this much for? The short answer is yes, but you don't want the short answer, so here's why... The touch's touch-sensitive control system really is a revolution in user interfaces - I can think of no other way of describing it. In the same way that Apple's clickwheel has never really been bettered, I can't see any other manufacturer coming up with anything superior to this for years either. It's the best touch sensitive interface I've ever used on any device and the software behind it is some of the best put-together on any pocket device I've used too.
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