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The Invisible iPod

Have you ever wanted a nice soundtrack of period music playing in the background of your 20th Century event or in the room of your historic house--but a boom box is too bulky, and if you subject your volunteers to the same CD on a continuous loop, they might take a hostage. ..

Here's something that has worked for me:

1. Assemble a nice collection of vintage recordings in digital format. iTunes actually has a modest selection. If you are in Pasadena and feel like dropping a wad of cash, Canterbury Music is an amazing place for such music (it's not that they're overpriced--I just can't leave that place without dropping at least a C-Note)

2. Get all this music onto your computer and then onto an MP3 Player like an iPod.

3. Find an old radio (preferably one that no longer works) and rip its guts out. You might also be able to find a cheap, newly made "vintage" style radio. I picked up a pseudo-Cathedral style one on sale once for $18.

4. Put your iPod and some speakers inside the radio, playing your vintage recordings.

Alternatively, if you don't have a radio you want to vandalize, the whole iPod/Speakers set is so small that it can fit easily under a table, hidden by a cloth or otherwise concealed. You can spend real money on a set of fancy compact speakers, but pretty decent results can often be gotten from plain old computer speakers.

The iPod can also be hooked up, via a "Monster Cable" to any sound system. These cables are available in any electronics store. They have a 1/4 inch pin on one end (for your iPod) and two prongs, one white and one red, for the "Input" jack on your sound system.

You then just set it up, turn it on and let it go. Be sure, if someone other than you might need to shut the thing up, to let people know how to turn it off or silence it. People are often afraid of breaking iPods, and are hesitant to touch them, so you should remove that source of stress. The best way for the unitiated to turn these things off is to just shut off the speakers rather than try to figure out the click wheel or other controls.