Music is, perhaps, only as old as time itself. But listening to it, of course, is relatively new. Well, at least in chronology, yes.
It had possibly come up with humankind attempting to save a tune, store it and play it later for amusement. Change, readers, is the only thing constant. And ‘Pause, Rewind, Play’ – the three have been on a constant journey of technology rework, over and over and over again. Like this -
Those early Swiss Musical Boxes:
The first of this kind was invented in 1811. But yes, the idea just did not fall from the sky. It had been brewing up since the 14th century, ultimately culminating in success on the 1st of January that year. And was it not utterly famous, this simple, yet clever combination of just bells and clocks?
Began a revolution of the music industry. A big one.
And the Phonautograph fanned the fire more:
Switzerland had invented the earliest possible music device. But, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville took all the fame by creating the phonautograph in 1857, a device that could visually conceive sound. The machine was made up in a fashion similar to the human ear with the ear canal, eardrum and ossicles imitated in the design. Although phonautograph suited a physics laboratory more than a music studio, it still had paved the way toward music recording, recreation and restoration.
Came Pianola – the piano player, in 1876:
And pianos turned self-playing. The pianola could now play pre-programmed music stored on a perforated paper or metal rolls via an electromagnetic mechanism. It was almost a Swiss musical box, re-designed, re-defined and re-sized mammoth times. It earned the name ‘nickelodeon,’ the huge juke box and witnessed feverish peak sales in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
New waves were surging for music lovers.
Phonograph sounded so scientific and…musical
21st November, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison was done tinkering the phonograph. With some great scientific principles and rules of recording and reproducing sound applied to the device, Edison’s invention surpassed all other inventions of that time, living on to later become the famous Gothic gramophone.
A coin, some rubber tubes and the not-so-independent Jukebox:
Yes, it was indeed a not-so-independent thing that had surfaced in 1889 and that required the support of other devices to run and work. It was coin-operated and later went on to become an independent music playing instrument.
The Radio revolution with the first ever KDKA Radio Station:
2nd November, 1920, the world witnessed its first commercially licensed Radio Station. And there was no looking back after that. Isn’t that memory of the radio still fresh? Nostalgic, the feeling is.
And after that, there were music devices pouring in. Another Jukebox, an automated one, the famous 8-track that found its place inside automobiles, the flat 78 records, V-discs, LP records and what not. This list is way too long.
And suddenly, one fine day in 1971, music was up on Compact Cassettes!
And it became a gold standard for music recording and listening, instantly. It was cheap, it was easy and most of all, it was compact – just a Side A and a Side B to keep reversing. Cassette players became more of a household furniture, taking up huge, wide spaces. Proudly. Music was played and listened to, was gifted, and even was recorded upon. The Compact Cassette trend ran like a fever, warming everyone up worldwide.
To run a radio and a cassette, then, came the Boombox in 1976 and after that the portable Walkman from Sony. One gained the love of families and the other of teenagers. And this wasn’t very long ago.
The fall of the Cassette came soon. Rose Compact Disc to fame.
Year 1982 (feels like just yesterday) saw the rise of those circular shiny discs that could store loads and loads of music of very high quality. And with it came the portable Discman. Walkman was soon forgotten.
The Internet and an audio coding format:
It was the age of Mp3. Developed by Fraunhofer Institute, this audio format meant storing more songs using lesser space. Nullsoft’s Winamp audio player, a new-age digital audio player then made it even more popular, making music free, both in terms of its availability and in cost too.
With the advent of Mp3, came devices like the Nomad Jukebox, Apple iPods, Archos PMP and other plug-and-play devices. Walkman died in 2010, with all these ‘cool’ devices dominating. But, very soon, the iPod touch and a range of smartphones crawled in making music play with just the touch of a finger.
And now, it’s more of live streaming and less of store-and-listen. How time changes! Isn’t it possible that perhaps someday, music will just be a thing as abstract as air? There shall be no device to store it, no player to play it. May be it will just be everywhere for you to listen to. Anytime. Waiting for you to say – “Music, Pause, Rewind and Play.”