5 Ancestors to the iPod

In today’s ever-changing realm audio technology, it seems like there’s a new platform for playing music every week. In a world where portable digital media has taken over the stage, the need for audio-specific devices is dwindling, as music is played on and toted around on smartphones, computers, and tablets. Kids are becoming less and less familiar with the CD, let alone the cassette or “old-fashioned” vinyl record. (And don’t even bother mentioning wire recordings or gramophones.) Today, audio and video can even run side by side on discs like Blu-Ray and DVDs, which put out high definition digital sound and sharp pictures.

For nostalgia purposes, let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember some of the predecessors to today’s MP3s and iPods:

1. Phonograph

The platform that started it all: Thomas Edison’s phonograph became the first device in the world to record and play back the human voice in 1877. The result of blending functions from two other pieces of technology at the time – a telegraph repeater and a telephone – Edison developed the concept of attaching the telegraph stylus to the telephone mouthpiece. Partly from lack of commercial push, the phonograph didn’t sell or advance for another ten years, at which point Edison perfected it and sold it in spades to an awestruck market.

2. Vinyl Record

In 1948, the reel-to-reel was replaced by a vinyl plastic disc with grooves in it; the disc was played on a phonograph, where a needle touched the grooves and “released” the sound. This was the famous vinyl record, a music device still around today as a nostalgic item, vintage collectible, or even funky decoration for the caves of music lovers. Despite the advent of digital and high-definition audio, such as SRS HD audio, many argue that vinyl produced a superior sound quality to today’s music mediums.

3. 8-Track Tapes

Introduced in 1965 and utilizing magnetic tape sound recordings, 8-tracks were mainly popular in the United States and United Kingdom until the 1980s. The tape consisted of an endless loop of standard 1/4-inch magnetic tape housed in a plastic cartridge, with eight parallel soundtracks corresponding to four stereo programs. Various car manufacturers offered the factory option to install 8-track players in one’s car, where it was often placed between the center console and the dashboard.

4. Cassette Tapes

Introduced in 1963, cassettes contained analog audio data. With a plastic casing and two spools of miniature tape, cassette tapes offered portable audio – or blank recordable tape for note-taking and dictations. Reversal requires flipping the cassette and re-loading it into the player, or using an auto-reverse function on the tape player (which wasn’t available when cassettes were first invented.)

5. Compact Discs

Yes, these are still around and still being mass produced. But not nearly as much as they were in the 1990s and early 2000s, when a musician’s new hit records were counted in album sales rather than number of downloads. Introduced in 1982, the compact disc was one of the first commercial digital music formats to appear on the scene – preceded by laser discs and Betamax digital audio within the decade. Songs have their own data tracks, which can be controlled by the player to skip straight to a specific segment. DualDiscs, which included multiple formats encoded on a single disc (such as both video and audio) arrived on the scene in 2003.
Image Source: old-picture.com