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Digital Music - Maximum Sound In Minimal Space

Sep 4, 2007
Time was that you had to visit a record store to get the music you wanted. Later, a membership to Columbia House meant you could easily order music from the comfort of your own home, but you had to wait. Technology advanced and media got smaller, delivery faster. Vinyl records were replaced with magnetic tape, cassettes and 8-tracks, then compact discs and even smaller compact discs. Silly me, I thought other than making the disc smaller what could possibly replace CD's? Well, as usual, technology has kept the pace and left me flailing in it's dusty wake. Digital music has revolutionized the way we acquire and listen to music. Now when you want an album or even a single song, it's as easy as pointing and clicking, waiting a few seconds for the download and you're rockin' and rollin'. Or groovin' to the tunes. Or gettin' down with the beat, etc., etc.

Oh, and check your downtown area for a local music store. You're more likely to see a Starbucks or 7-Eleven.

Roots In The Fatherland

MP3, or MPEG Audio Layer III, got its start in Germany in 1987 when the Fraunhofer Institut began doing research on the subject and started the EUREKA project EU147. Karlheinz Brandenburg, sometimes called The Father of MP3, explains how MP3 almost never got off the ground. The code, for some reason just would not work. Luckily, just before they were to submit the project to the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) subcommittee, the group that oversees standards for the industry, they found the compilation error that was causing the problems.

A company called Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft now owns the patents and licenses the rights to its use.

The Technology - In Simple Terms

The amount of data or information in just one second of CD quality music is about 1.4 megabits or almost 1 and a half million pieces of information per second. MP3 technology compresses the file, shrinking its size to a more manageable 1/12 the original with almost no information loss. This means more information delivered more quickly to your MP3 player for better sound quality. So it's not a matter of storage but a matter of transferring so much data in so little time. MP3 technology squishes that data so more of it fits into a smaller space, namely the pipeline from your player through the wire connecting to your ear piece.

MP3 Players

The first successful MP3 player was developed by Tomislav Uzelac in 1997. and was called AMP MP3 Playback Engine. A year later, two university students, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev ported it to the Windows platform to create WinAmp. Frauenhofer was actually first to create the player but the software was unsuccessful.

Now we have all manner of choices for our listening enjoyment. With offerings from Sony, Apple, Panasonic, Samsung and more, we have an endless array of players, with a multitude of features like phones, video, internet and others too numerous to mention here.

The Industry

Taking full advantage of this new technology, Napster picked up the MP3 ball and ran with it. I would have been surprised if someone hadn't come up with the idea. The still growing community of Napsterites was able to use MP3 technology to listen to their own music and share it with anybody who had an internet connection. While this was great for the community, not to mention Napster, the music industry was less thrilled with it. They reasoned: Nobody is going to buy music when they can share it for free... They had a point. Napster still has free music but has changed its policy in response to the industry's reaction. You'll need to purchase a song if you want to listen to it more than 3 times.

For The Consumer

MP3 brings with it a freedom that no other music technology has before. The devices are small enough to bring anywhere. They fit so much music into such a tiny space, you never have to hear the same song twice or carry boxes of tapes or cd's. If you do need to update your collection, more songs are an internet connection away. No searching through stacks and stacks of records or tapes to find a song. Pull up a menu, highlight your selection and your good to go!

The Digital Music Revolution has changed the way we buy and listen to the music we love. We can take our music wherever we go, never missing a beat. The technology behind MP3 no doubt isn't finished in its tinkerings and soon enough we'll have yet another incarnation to astonish us with its amazing breakthroughs and its somehow even higher quality sound. I don't know what direction this new technology will take but if I could guess, I would say it involves surgery. I've been wrong before though.

Well, I have to go into town to run some errands now so I'll be off now, heading out on the open road. I think I'll pop in an 8-track and listen to some Grateful Dead.
About the Author
Ron Berry is a freelance journalist who writes for Essay Street - http://essaystreet.com - and operates I Scored Tickets! - http://iscoredtickets.com Concert Tickets and Music Downloads
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