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Macs prior to September 2003 with Firewire ports are much better equipped to handle the older Firewire compatible iPods than the new USB based iPods.
The USB 1.x ports on pre-September 2003 Macs, while capable of connecting to newer iPods, will only connect at 12 Mbps compared to Firewire's 400 Mbps.
Some third party addon cards are available, but make sure that any you get has the ability to power the iPod, as not all do.