If you build it, I will come

I have been commuting between Marin County and Silicon Valley for more than six years now, at least an hour each way. To make the time pass, lots of good listening material is essential. The local radio stations served for a while, but they weren’t up to the task for the long haul (especially as the Bush administration wore on and I became less and less able to tolerate NPR and its constant reporting and commentary on depressing developments). I realized long ago an ordinary CD player wouldn’t do the job either. An ordinary CD can hold only ten or twenty songs and only a fraction of an audiobook. I needed something that could play CD-ROM’s with 200 MP3’s apiece.

I experimented with a portable MP3-CD player connected to a tiny FM transmitter for receiving and playing my songs on my car’s stereo, but the batteries in the transmitter needed changing every couple of days and there was no one frequency that was empty enough for me to use all the way from one end of my drive to the other, so I was constantly fiddling with the tuning on the transmitter and on my in-dash receiver.

Eventually I discovered a Sony-made in-dash MP3-CD player and bought it. It was great! But burning new CD-ROM’s every week or two started to become a drag. Then I found a JVC model that had a USB socket on the front panel where I could plug in a thumb drive full of music. It was really great! But it was stolen. I replaced it and am now on my third MP3-capable in-dash receiver (another Sony).

None of them has been perfect. If you build one that has none of the following flaws (each found in one or more of my previous players), I will immediately buy it:

  • Cannot navigate 1,000+ songs other than “nexting” through them one at a time
  • Cannot simultaneously display title, album, and artist
  • Display unreadable in direct sunlight
  • No clock display when switched off
  • Control buttons smaller than those on a smartphone
  • Clock display fails to update while a song is playing
  • Cannot display folder or filename of the current song
  • Forgets position in song/folder/playlist when car is turned off
  • Cannot adjust volume without disrupting the momentary display of some song details
  • Cannot disable the annoying “you forgot to detach the detachable faceplate” beep when turning off the car

Leave a Reply