For those of you just interested in what worked scroll to the bottom. For anyone interested in the process...
Some quick background on my ipod: I have a fourth generation black and white clickwheel, 20 gig. I bought it new a while ago. Before the warranty was even up on it the battery died - there was visible damage on the case, so I never even bothered to bring it in. Apple is sticklers about the no visible damage rule. Eventually I got around to changing the battery, it would take a charge from a wall charger, but not the cable that connects via usb to the machine. However if I plugged into the computer the ipod would still sync up with my music library.
I didn't use the ipod for a while, as I have a car and didn't walk around nearly as much as I used to. In the last few moths I bought a charger/tuner, so I could broadcast my ipod to the radio in my car and enjoy my tunes. This caused me to realize that in the last two years spent not listening to my ipod, my taste in music has evolved quite a bit. I decided tunes need to come on and tunes need to get off.
After I loaded an additional 3 gig of music onto my tibook G4. I plugged in my ipod via the usb cable. Nothing happened. no error messages, no disconnect nothing. Phase 1 I tried another usb port on the same machine no dice. - I tried another machine entirely this time I hooked it up to a dell with windows xp installed on it. Even if the machine didn't have itunes on it it should recognize that a device was plugged in. No dice.
I asked the internet for some wisdom and it denied me, so I went out and bought another cord, thinking maybe I had a broken cable. negative the new cord did not work with my machine or any other machine. when i searched for fixes or others reporting the same problem I found a few mostly on forums with leads but no follow up info on what worked or didn't.I grew tormented.
These are the facts of the situation:
Ran down to Best Buy and bought a $28.00 cable - dual usb firewire ipod cable. Baddabing badda boom it worked!