Computers, the Internet, and Music

August 26, 2011

When I was a kid, we had records. You had the album, also known as an LP (Long Play), which was a disk about the size of a dinner plate. You played it on a record player. The album could hold about 25 minutes on each side. You also had the 45 or the single. This is a smaller disk that could hold one song on each side. The LP ran at a speed of 33 1/3 while the 45 ran at a speed of, you guessed it, 45. I know they had 78’s, but that was before my time, so I’m not too familiar with them.

In the late 70’s, the cassette began to catch on. They were smaller than records. The player for cassettes was also more portable than records. Another nice thing about cassettes was that you could record your records onto the cassette and then listen to that same music on cassette. All it cost was the price of a blank cassette. Another nice thing about cassettes was that you could get 90 minute cassettes which would hold 45 minutes on each side. So you could often put two albums on one cassette.

When you went to the music store, you could usually purchase your album on record or cassette. I always purchased them on record and then recorded it to a blank cassette. My reasoning was so that I did not wear out the record playing it. I could wear out the cassette and then just re-record the record to a new blank cassette.

By the way, I’m skipping the 8-track format because it never really caught on like the cassette and CD did. I’m also ignoring reel-to-reel because those were mainly owned by audiophiles. In the early 80’s, the CD began to become popular for music distribution. CD’s had many advantages over both records and cassettes. The CD was still very portable like the cassette tape, but CD’s don’t wear out and you could easily skip a song or go directly to a specific song instead of all of that fast forwarding and guessing that came with the cassette tape.

It wasn’t too long before records and cassettes started disappearing from the music stores and you’re only option was to purchase music on CD. But there were some drawbacks. Unlike cassettes, you couldn’t record the records and cassettes you already had onto CD. If you wanted all CD’s, you had to re-purchase all of your music. I suppose that’s the way the music companies wanted it.

You may be wondering why I’m talking about music distribution media in a computer newsletter. The reason is to talk about how computers and the internet have changed music. CD’s were the standard for quite a while, but now music stores are dying and electronic distribution is taking over.

It’s really pretty easy to take your records, cassettes, and yes, even your 8-track music and get it on to your computer. All you need is something that will play that format and a cable to hook it up to your computer. Then you can record your music to the computer. Getting music from audio CD’s onto your computer is even easier. Just pop it in the drive on the computer and rip the music using any number of free software like Windows Media Player which comes with Windows.

In the digital world, you still have the issue of format, though. Instead of records, cassettes, 8-tracks, CD’s, and so forth, you instead have mp3, wma, mp4, flac, and tons of others. The good part is that it’s not too hard to convert music from one format to another. I convert everything to mp3 because it’s so portable and you don’t have to worry about licensing. Some audiophiles don’t think mp3’s sound as good as other formats, but I think they sound just fine. I can’t tell the difference, at least.

So, once you have all of your music in digital format, what then? If you have all of your music on one computer, then any other computer in the house can listen to that music over your home network. You can install a media extender on any TV and access music and other media on your computer. If you have an Xbox, you can listen to your music through that. You can purchase a radio transmitter for about $150 and hook it up to your computer and have it play music. Then you only need to tune into the correct radio channel on any radio in the house to listen to that music.

Taking your music with you is even easier with digital format as well. iPods and mp3 players are great for taking music with you. Most smart phones like iPhones can be loaded up with music and you can listen to it. In your car, you have lots of options too. If your car has an aux plug on the stereo, you can plug your smart phone or mp3 player right into the stereo and listen to the music that is on the device. Some of the newer car stereos have USB ports so all you have to do is load up a USB flash drive with music and then just plug it in there.

But what if your car doesn’t have an aux plug or a USB port? No problem! You can purchase a device that transmits your music over FM radio. Then you plug that device into your music device and then tune your car radio to the correct station and  you can hear your music. It really couldn’t be easier or nicer. And no commercials.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.