I love music because it is universal. I don’t need music to be translated or explained to feel it, love it, and be in tune. And in just a few notes, I can recognize a work or who composed one I am hearing for the first time. It is magic. I enjoy listening to music plunged into darkness, so I can entirely focus on what the composer and the artists are expressing, without the distraction my other senses may introduce.
Like all my generation, I immediately embraced the technology that allowed me enjoying music, where, when, and how I wanted: Sony’s Walkman! It was a true revolution that changed everything about our relation to music. Over the decades, music-playing devices changed the media they used. We went from the venerable analog magnetic tape to the plethora of digital media, constantly improving the quality and the storage capacity.
Ever since the advent of the Walkman, I adopted the newest technologies, rendering previous generations obsolete. In particular, the MP3 revolution caught all my attention. Coming from the CD world and its PCM encoding of the audio signal samples at 44.1kHz, I was amazed by the psychoacoustic approach of the lossy compression algorithm. The technology was so novel, and innovation fueling the rapid evolution of the MP3 players reminded me of the personal computer’s birth. It was also when I contributed to the now defunct <MP3> Magazine launched by a few friends! Fun times.
I recall reviewing all the MP3 players of the moment. I was fond of the Diamond RIO 500, the best player at the time for my needs. The offer was rich, and there was a player for every user’s need and budget. Even a few outliers were available, like the Pocket Concert released by Intel. Its whopping 128MB of memory was a great demonstrator of Intel’s StrataFlashTM memory technology. You can still find the press release here. I jumped on the Apple iPod bandwagon much later, with its 6th generation. Today, I am still enjoying my music nightly, listening to a modded Gen7 classic iPod – swapping the hard drive for an SD card (here). In ~220GB, I can store my entire audio media library in 35,344 songs!
Today, music is dematerialized, often exclusively streamed, and the smartphone is the de-facto audio player. If you wonder why I got stuck in 2014 when Apple discontinued the classic line, the answer is simple. It goes back to my preferred way of listening to music: plunged in the dark. I need the tactile feedback of the buttons that no touch device can reproduce. To degrade my experience further, touch devices force me to look at the screen for any operation, may it be a simple rewind.
True, all this is about personal choices and preferences, like music, after all. It is also and mainly a testament to the revolution introduced in 1979 by Sony. Since then, and despite all the technical progress, nothing has revolutionized how we consume music. Even Star-Lord uses a Walkman😊 Cue the music!