the evolution of music format

I was reading another blog that I follow and he posted an entry entitled Do You Remember Audio Cassette Tapes? and it got my thinking about how music and how we listen to it has changed so much in my lifetime.

I was born in 1971, in fact today is my 40th birthday. :-) When I was a child we had vinyl records and 8 track tapes. We didn’t have an 8 track player but my parents had dones of 45′s and 33′s in their collection. Everything from Iron Butterfly to The Beatles (they had all the albums) to Barry Manilow (my mom’s favorite and ingrained in my head FOREVER.) The beauty of the vinyl record was the pops and scratches heard when playing the record and the rich sound which sounds exactly as the artist intended with no loss of quality to digital transfer. Pops and scratches give the music character. I still have some vinyl records namely, Purple Rain, Dennis DeYoung, Barbara Streisand, Parade, the First Z morning Zoo record (anyone from NY remember Z 100 morning Zoo with Scott Shannon, Clair Stevens, Ross Britton and Mr Leonard?) I don’t have a turn table anymore so I cannot listen to them but I will never get rid of them.

The 45 record was a single song hit with a “B side”. Smaller than a 33 record a special adapter was required in the center of the record because the hole was bigger. You also needed to set the record player for 45 revolutions per minute as opposed to 33 revolutions per minute for the larger records. I bought 45′s like they were going out of style. My favorite 45 I ever bought was the teal blue clear 45 for Madonna’s True Blue record in the mid 80′s.

8 track player

8 Track player


8 track tape

8 track tape

In the 1980′s cassettes became very popular with the introduction of the Sony Walkman (Cassettes were originally launched in Europe in the mid 1960′s) I had hundreds of them. From this came the advent of the “mix tape”. We all made them. They could be used to convey a mood, create an atmosphere, or tell someone how you felt about them. God knows I made many, many, many of them.

My first cassette that I bought was, simultaneously, Pink Floyd: The Wall and The Village People’s YMCA. Interesting choices huh? Cassette singles were also available and I bought them. I have tons in my attic. Although I’m sure they are warped and ruined by now.

Cassette Tape

Cassette Tape

The trouble with cassettes was that they could be ruined so easily. All too often the players would “eat” the cassette tape. This ruined the tape forever. This was especially true when it was a 90 minute tape or the tape had been played a lot. There are albums that I bought several times because it got ruined by my cassette player. (which was a pink double cassette boom box. I loved that thing!!)

After cassettes Compact Disc’s came into being. They first came out in the 1980′s but really didn’t hit their stride until the 1990′s when the prices for CD players were greatly reduced. I actually have two first CD’s. one that I was given and one that I bought. The first CD I was given was Journey’s Greatest hits. The first CD I bought was Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience A really great album. Now I have hundreds of CD’s.

Compact Discs

CDs or Compact Discs

Most of my CD’s have been converted to digital files for my iPod. Now we mostly get our music in the digital format from iTunes,, Barnes and Nobel, Napster or just plain piracy. I remember when Napster was free and completely illegal. I got so much music and video from Napster and WinMx it was ridiculous. I have no idea where those files went since I’ve changed computers several times since then. Almost all are lost and I’ve been forced to line the pockets of the Apple people to not only replace them but get better sounding versions of the songs. The nice thing about digital music is that it’s completely portable and can be listened to any where anytime thanks to our iPods, smart phone and mp3 players.

itunes screen shot

iTunes screen shot

I feel fortunate to have lived through the evolution of music from vinyl to digital format. What a change it has been


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