Music is Getting Smaller - From Records to MP3 Players


The record player was a marvel for music enthusiasts world wide. It begun in mono though a simple amplifier of sound waves carved into a vinyl disc. This technology was amazing at its time. The disc then developed into dual sound waves storing left and right sounds on the single disc on waving up and down, the other left and right. No longer would people have to go out for musical performances! They could simply listen to it in their own homes.

In the late 1970s the cassette player became the most popular audio medium, replacing big chunky records with small easy to insert tapes. These tapes used a new form of media. Rather then using analogue sound waves this new technology used digital ones and zeros to represent the details of a sound wave. This sparked the beginning of the digital age for music, allowing music to be stored in many different ways physically while still representing the same ones and zeros. The tape was able to do this though holding magnetic charges to record ones and not having a charge to record zeros.


Digital storage was also a huge improvement in sound quality, no longer will people rely on amplification of sound waves. These sound waves could be perfectly represented in digital form, limiting sound quality by two factors; quality of equipment, and amount of sound channels.


The next storage medium to hit the stage was the Compact Disc (CD). The CD used optical data storage to record ones and zeros. This was done by pits and pins. A pin or micro bump in the disc would reflect a laser back up to a sensor letting the CD Player know its a one. Where as a pit or micro ditch in the disc would not reflect back up letting the CD Player know its a zero. What differed about this form of storage was that while data was still stored sequentially around the disc. The CD also stored a map at the beginning of the CD allowing CD Players to know how many songs there are on the CD, and where on the CD they could be found. In layman's terms you could easily jump to a particular song without fast forwarding or rewinding the CD.


This form of audio storage was favored over the cassette for four main reasons, these being. One, the fact that you can 'jump' between tracks. Two, you can store much more data on a single disc than a cassette. Three, the discs would not get warped though large amounts of use, as cassette tapes would. Four, the ability to read CD's was much more efficient and effective allowing CD Players to convert digital audio into analogue sound with less errors.


With the rise of Personal Computers (PC) and the internet, two things came from digital audio that would change the way people listen to music forever. This was the ability to store music on computers and computer storage mediums, and the ability to quickly and easily download digital audio from the internet in the form of an MP3.

The MP3 is a form of digital audio that is compressed. The compression follows an algorithm of taking out the unneeded frequency's while leaving the song still listen able. Though this new file format digital audio companies such as Apple, Sony and Walkman were able to develop MP3 Players that could decompress these digital files and convert the digital audio into that of analogue sound waves. This form of digital audio storage trumped the rest with its ability to store hundreds and even thousands of songs on a single device. Done though a new form of technology called solid-state flash memory, where billions of electrons are stored within a device to represent digital ones and zeros. Flash memory is also much more durable than visual, magnetic or analogue storage mediums. Having files saved on a flash drive means you can also store video files, documents and any form of computer files on your MP3 player.


With this new and exciting form of audio storage on the rise, and microchips physically shrinking flash memory is continually getting smaller and smaller, able to hold vast amounts of songs and files. Recently designers have created wearable MP3 Players that look great and are able to clip onto your clothes, belt or even your pocket! This funky innovation allows people to take their MP3 player with them everywhere and listen to music anywhere. Not to mention the ability to take any other files along with you in such a tiny storage device.

And so we head into the future with our favorite songs and important files literally close to our hearts. Having the ability to listen to them on demand without swapping disc or cassettes. This is the biggest thing in audio so far, and will continue to upgrade over the next few years to become physically smaller while digitally larger.


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- Max Style


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