This fall, Duke University plans to give incoming freshmen a trendy item the school hopes will be a cutting-edge learning tool: portable digital music players from Apple Computer.

Duke announced a deal with Apple to distribute 1,650 iPod devices to its first-year students. Duke will get a discount from the computer manufacturer, then give the players free to freshmen.

The iPods generally are used to store and play music. The 20-gigabyte model, which the students will get, can hold about 5,000 songs.

But the ones


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