Today, listening to music is more convenient than ever. All you need to do is plug in, press play, and sit back and enjoy. Have you ever considered how this could be possible? The way we store and listen to music looked quite different a few decades ago. Back when cassettes and CDs were popular, we could see and feel our music. Music is now available in digital form. How did we get here? Continue reading to learn more about the exciting journey of music.

The timeline below depicts the evolution of music formats, from vinyl to digital and everything in between.

The Complexity of Storing Sound

Music is a collection of sounds that have been meticulously composed and arranged. As we all know, sound is a form of energy made up of mechanical waves, so it’s simply a series of vibrations.

In 1857, the Phonautograph was the first instrument to successfully record the human voice. This was a defining moment in sound recording, paving the way for the next challenge: reproducing sound by replaying it on the same medium. Thomas Edison experimented with many materials before settling on the wax cylinder phonograph. These wax cylinders took on a variety of forms and sizes over time before being flattened into disks. These vinyl records were played on a gramophone and were the most popular method of music storage for nearly a century.

The Electromagnetic Revolution

Though records made recording, storing, and distributing music easy, their size was an issue that electromagnetics solved.

In the 1960s, the concept of the portable audio cassette became popular. Owing to its small size and mobility, it became a big boom in the music industry. Cassettes were invented by the Philips company. Early cassettes featured a max playtime of 45 minutes of audio per side. 

The cassette also fit perfectly into the suburban expansion, which meant more and more cars. So, the requirement for mobile playback systems and formats was a hot concept. You can now listen to your favorite music instead of the regular radio while driving, thanks to car manufacturers’ quick integration of cassette players into cars.

In 1979, Sony introduced the “Walkman,” a cassette-playing portable music player. For the first time, music was practically in the palm of your hand, and you could carry it wherever you went. All you needed were a good pair of headphones and a set of long-lasting batteries!

Coding Music

The Digital Age and the Streaming Era

Following that, Sony partnered with Phillips to develop a new generation of music storage devices. The Compact Disk, or CD, was conceived in 1979, combining the best of all worlds. It was compact, lightweight, and inexpensive, and it could store high-resolution audio. It would also last much longer than records or cassette tapes. CD players are optical, not mechanical or magnetic, in that they record and read data from bright metal discs using flashing laser lights. A beam of light is the only thing that comes into contact with the CD in a CD player.

CDs were the final phase of the music storage medium that we could see and touch. However, the Internet’s innovative idea cut the voyage short. As music could now be saved digitally, the internet made it possible to share music files with people all over the world. For storing music, a new format known as MP3 became the standard. Thousands of songs could be stored on a pen drive or hard disk using MP3. When Apple unveiled the iPod in 2001, the digital music age was officially launched.

CDs and MP3 players are no longer available. We are currently living in the Music Streaming Era. Since music has become so invisible, we no longer have to save digital files or buy or listen to them on our own devices. By clicking a button on music streaming, we may listen to any song we want. 

Streaming services have huge collections of music on servers all around the world. When you play a song, your music player searches for the closest server that has the song and makes it available to you right away. We don’t even need to keep our music on our own devices anymore. It can be accessed at any time and is stored digitally on a server anywhere in the world.

From Disks to Digital

Digital audio is a representation of sound recorded in or converted into digital form. In a digital audio system, an analog electrical signal, that is, the sound, is converted into a digital signal. Music coding is writing code in a textual or visual environment to analyze audio input and/or produce sonic output. 

Regardless of how old some formats are, they all lead us to where we are now⏤streaming. The majority of music listeners choose to buy their music digitally, either as a download or through a streaming service. In many ways, the CD marked the beginning of the end of tangible forms. Our listening habits have been taken over by computers and MP3 players. 

Although MP3 became popular, it wasn’t until 1999, with the launch of Napster, that the format truly took off. Napster paved the way for platforms such as the iTunes store, which allows users to select, buy, and play music with just a few clicks.

Streaming platforms emerged in the 2000s as a result of music entrepreneurs recognizing the potential for something big: the ability to listen to and discover new music without having to download files or buy songs. The introduction of iPhone in 2007 was the impetus for the rise in popularity of streaming and internet radio.

Spotify, which debuted the following year, lets users choose between listening for free with advertisements or paying a monthly subscription for unrestricted, uninterrupted streaming.

What Now?

Because music is such an important part of our lives, asking “what is the future of music?” is really a question about ourselves and how music will continue to influence our lives in the future. Music’s future will almost certainly follow the same trends as that of current technology. It will be highly social, computer-based, code-driven, and A.I.-driven. Read more such blogs on BYJU’S FutureSchool and connect with us to share your views on this amazing disk-to-digital journey of music. 

About the Author

More than just Coding and Math! Our proprietary, activity-based curriculum with live, real-time instruction facilitates: Problem Solving. Creative Thinking. Grit. Confidence. Communication