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Monday, August 08, 2011

One From The Archive: What Did We Do Before .... The MP3 Player

Cast your minds back to 1979.

That was the year that the Sony Stowaway portable cassette player was launched.  The first truly portable, personal, music player.  At the time it was a revolution in the electronics industry, and a boon to the sales of pre-recorded cassettes.  It became possible to listen to your favourite artist/music whilst on the bus or train.  Indeed, it became a must-have for the health addict, who carried one whilst out jogging.

Even without an on-board speaker, they were quite large and bulky, and as time moved on, they became slimmer and lighter; although still constrained by the size of the cassette.

The Stowaway name soon changed to Walkman; and over time, this name has become a generic term for a portable media player.  Sony still use the name today.

Due to the physical limitation, only so much tape could be contained in the plastic box; and in some cases, the quality of the tape meant they snapped easily, and the recording no longer available to listen to.

In utilising half the width of the tape, this meant we could record on one side, flip it over, and record again; thereby doubling the amount of music we had.  Since music was sold on vinyl records; many hours were spent copying them to cassette, so we could carry the music with us, on our walkman.

It was also difficult to find a favourite track, as there was no indexing on cassettes; you had to 'guess' how much to fast-forward or rewind.  Ah! Those were the days...

Now skip all the way forward to 1998 (bypassing the portable CD player!)

The MP3 player had begun to catch the imagination.  MP3 is the industry standard for electronic music files, and that's just what your music became.  A file, stored on the computer, that, when played on a compatible device, allowed you to take your music with you.

It was now possible to jump straight to the track of choice, and because an MP3 file size is quite small, it became possible to have, quite literally, hours of music in your hand - dependent on the size of the on-board memory.

It wasn't until 3 years later, in 2001, that Apple entered the fray with their iPod - and the course of music distribution and listening changed forever.

It's always nice to reminisce about the 'good ole days' and how we marvelled at the small technology within the early walkmans; however, the MP3 player had a dramatic impact on the way we consume our music (and movies) on the move.

It's hard to see what's next....

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