Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Marriage of Melody and Mac !!!

When Edison invented the cylinder phonograph to record and playback sound, the initial thought was that it would become useful as a business tool for dictation. Little did anyone know that this began the long journey to the marriage of Melody and Mac. Many innovations and advances needed to occur at the right time and the right place for us to be where we are now in the realm of the digital media time-line.

During the years of 1840 through 1899, several innovations in sound and music came to life. Emile Berliner invented both the microphone (1877) and the flat record player entitled the Gramophone (1887). Shellac gramophone disks will be developed in 1897 and speeds will vary on disks issued by companies in different countries. Danish inventor Valdemar Poulson invented magnetic wire sound recording in 1889. In the same year, Louis Glass invents the modern jukebox and installs it in a saloon in San Francisco. In 1892, Music Publishers begin renting office space on 28th street in New York City, in an area that would become known as “Tin Pan Alley.” “After The Ball” by Charles K. Harris, the songs' composer and publisher, became the first sheet music to sell a million copies. These years also began the convergence of music and film. In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers use piano music with a motion picture program and in 1896, an orchestra is used with silent motion pictures for the first time.

Mass duplication becomes possible between 1900 and 1924. This mass duplication makes the record industry possible. Edison, RCA Victor, and Columbia become big names in the industry, primarily because they had held the most patents on existing technologies. Disks become the preferred music medium over cylinders. Radio broadcasting begins during this time-frame, and the music industry finds a place for both the new and the old technologies. In 1900, Eldredge Johnson develops the first system of mass duplication of pre-recorded flat disks. RCA Victor's “Victrola” model record player is introduced and introduces a variable turntable speed control that will accommodate the collection of phonograph records that will be produced during that time. The Victrola's speeds ranged from 71-76 rpm, but disks from some countries and from some companies were being produced anywhere in the 66-90 rpm range. US manufacturers will come to an agreement in 1928 to standardize the rate of 78.26, and eventually standard speeds will be used world-wide.

In 1906, John Ambrose Fleming, a British scientist developed the first vacuum tube that was called a valve. In 1907, Lee de Forest is granted a patent for the first three-element vacuum tube. The third element of the tube was called a grid and allowed the tube to amplify signals which made radio with voice and music practical. In 1908, the double-sided phonograph record are introduced. In 1909, experimental radio station broadcasts were attempted by Charles Herrold and his assistant Ray Newby and by 1912, they begin the first regular public radio broadcasting of voice and music. In 1912, disk recordings overtake cylinders, which leads to the Edison Company introducing a disk player.

Recording technology continued to advance and analog sound reproduction improved. Radio joined the ranks of entertainment media in the home and recordings and radio became intertwined; allowing broadcasters to play records over the radio. In 1926, the National Broadcasting Company becomes the first radio network, followed by the Columbia Broadcasting Network in 1927. In 1928, manufacturers begin standardization on 78.26 rpm phonograph records. Although RCA begins work on a 33 1/3 rpm record during this time period, it fails as it is not capable to stand up to repeated plays and it will be many more years before a LP record is developed that is good enough for consumer use. In 1940, New York City sees FM radio broadcasting become regular. Captured German magnetic tape recorders are brought to the US and are copied for commercial use in 1946. In 1948, the commercial 33 1/3 LP disc is introduced by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Colombia Records and in 1949 RCA Victor develops 45 rpm phonograph records. This was intended to replace the 33 1/3 LP discs, but failed to do so. 45 rpm discs did become the preferred media format for singles.

1950 through 1974 was a period of time that revolutionized the fields of sound and broadcast technology, television and magnetic tape. The “space race” launched advances in digital electronics. The development of the integrated circuit that allowed holding thousands of transistors on a single “chip” led to large scale integrated circuits which made the development of microprocessors and memory “chips.” This was the beginning of personal computers and other embedded systems.

The Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) created a program to connect university research labs. This project was called DARPANET and eventually led to the Internet.

In 1950, RCA gave in and began producing 33 1/3 LP's to compete with Columbia and other manufacturers. By 1955, larger 12” LP's overtake 10” LP's as the preference and by 1957, compatible disk and record players are offered for sale. By 1963, compact tape cassettes and players are developed and in 1964, the 8-track stereo tape cartridge is developed for use in the automobile.

In 1981, the MTV Music TV Cable Network debuts and in the same year, the first IBM PC is released. In 1982, the digital compact disc (CD) was introduced by a Japanese company and the first CD released in Japan was Billy Joel's “52nd Street.” In 1983, CD titles are released in the US and by 1985, the CD starts to gain market ground on the LP, reducing LP sales by 25%. By June of 1986, CD sales had taken over LP sales in the US and by 1988 CD sales had taken over the LP sales world-wide. DVD technology is created in 1996 and increases capacity of digital storage.

Tim Berners-Lee finishes programming the first practical web browser that incorporates both FTP (file transfer protocol) and HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) in 1990 and allows his browser into the public domain in 1993 with the dream of furthering the World-Wide Web. By 1994, the Internet begins to take off and personal computers outsell TV sets for the first time in the US.

During this same time, the moving picture experts group MPEG-1 Audio Layer III, also known as the MP3, compressed file format becomes an international standard, and eventually will become the format that is primarily used for distributing audio files over the Internet.

In 1999, Internet Service Providers introduce consumers to broadband that offers faster and smoother downloads and streaming media and in this same year, recordable CD-R digital audio technology becomes part of personal computer systems. In 2000, Napster, an Internet site for sharing music is created and when record sales declined, the record industry blames online music swapping and begin to look into digital copy protection options.

In 2001, Apple introduces the iPod music play for playing MP3 files. Even though the iPod was not the first MP3 player available commercially, it does become the best known one and when Apple introduces the iTunes music service in 2003, they prove that people will pay to download music legally. On February 22nd, 2006, Apple's online music store has been fully integrated into their iTunes Software and iPod hardware, and sells their one-billionth song, which proves that consumers are open to a non-tangible form of media.

Consumers are now obsessed with their increasingly growing music collection and pay attention to securing their libraries for years to come.

I must admit that I am likely one of the few that does not have a large music collection in MP3 format, but I do enjoy music and listen to streaming music via iHeartRadio on a daily basis. I still do miss the anticipation of the old days; I remember waiting over a week to watch the epic release of Michael Jackson's Thriller Video on MTV in 1983. I also miss the antics that could occur from hearing a song for the first time and having to drive to the record / cd store and sing the song to the clerk to see if they knew what song we were talking about (this was before you could instantly Google the words or have the radio display the song and artist name as the song was playing). My favorite memory was my mother singing Red Dog Love to a clerk, only to find out that she was really referring to Radar Love !!!

Please see the below website for the entire technology timeline:

1 comment:

  1. When my wife was a kid, she thought that the Cher song "Halfbreed" was a song called "Alfree" so you can imagine the look on her Mom's face when she went around the house singing it.