Music tech rewind: 7 modern inventions that change the way we listen
When you’re sitting in the park listening to music on your wireless speaker, you’re probably too busy enjoying the vibe to pontificate on the science and innovation that brought music and technology to where it is today.
Music has come a long way from the time when dropping a new song literally meant dropping a record onto a turntable. Now, we’ve got devices that can download songs in seconds and sound systems that give you full control over the jams you pump.
To celebrate and explore the path it took to get where we are today, here is a rewind on music tech, and an exploration of seven advances in technology that have forever changed the way we listen to music – starting with the most recent.
DropMix — 2017
Music has been a key part of gaming since 8-bit systems graced the scene in the early 80s. Now, both mediums have evolved, making way for advancements that allow users to control both the music and the game itself. Enter DropMix: A fast-paced music-mixing game from Hasbro and Harmonix that lets users blend together popular songs while facing off with friends, now available for pre-order in the U.S. at DropMix.com and in stores September 24.
“We want to give people the joy of connecting with their friends via music,” says DropMix Creative Lead, Jonathan Mintz. “New technology lets DJs create amazing live music mixes, and we want everyone to have that power – no music skills required!”
DropMix lets players discover their hidden musical talents, competing with friends while mixing popular songs from top artists in real time.
”As you get better at the game, you’ll find unexpected and amazing combinations,” continues Mintz. “Making mixes is as easy as dropping color-coded cards onto the DropMix board. Each card will seamlessly add vocals, drums, bass, and more to the mix.
With tons of songs in a wide range of styles, from hip-hop to electronic to country, 70s disco to 90s rock to modern pop, the power is literally in your hands to make totally mind-blowing mixes with your friends….then compete to see who can master the mix!”
Mintz and the Hasbro and Harmonix team debuted DropMix during SXSW in Austin.
“Anywhere you can bring your phone and the game board, you can bust out the game and play with your friends.” Whether you’re a professional DJ or just someone who loves to chill with their buds and listen to music, DropMix is not only a game — but also a game changer.
Streaming sites — 2001
While there was a brief period of time it looked like downloading music could get you thrown in jail — due to the response from a heavy metal band that shall go nameless — streaming sites eventually became the golden standard for an easy listening experience. From sites where you get unlimited access for a monthly fee, to pay-per-song apps, streaming delivers high-quality music from virtually any modern decade to eager listeners. What we love about modern streaming sites is the immense library available at any given time. Modern streaming sites have upwards of 30 million tracks available — a bit more than your old CD booklet from the 90s.
MP3 player — 1998
Remember some of the first MP3 players? They were thick, clunky, and could only hold a handful of songs before you ran out of space. Since then, the technology has improved, but you’d be surprised to know that inklings of MP3 players started in 1981 when a British inventor and businessman named Kane Kramer filed a patent for a digital audio player. It wouldn’t be until 1998 that the first MP3 players (with 32 MB of space) were made available to the public, The technology would soon catch up and shape the way we listen to music forever.
Bluetooth — 1989
Music is portable — a luxury that hasn’t always existed. Whether it’s in the park or even another room in your house, giving your music mobility is half the fun of listening. None of this would be entirely possible – or, at least, convenient – without Bluetooth. The technology was first invented in 1989 by Swedes Nils Rydbeck and Johan Ullman for the purpose of developing wireless headsets. It would be another decade before Rydbeck and Ullman’s technology was repurposed for speakers, giving way to a completely wireless method of bringing your music wherever you want to go.
CDs — 1982
Imagine the first time a music lover laid eyes on a compact disc — so small, so shiny, so much music on so little surface area. Co-developed by Philips and Sony in 1982, the first compact disc had more storage power than most computers at the time and was able to hold up to 80 minutes of uncompressed audio. It would only take six years before CD sales would surpass vinyl, and another four before the compact disc killed off cassette tapes for good. While people loved CDs and the accompanying players, it wouldn’t be until the early 2000s that the CD craze would die off, giving way to the MP3 and music streaming sites.
Walkman — 1979
Before the Walkman, music just wasn’t portable — it played wherever the record player sat. While the idea of a “portable stereo” can be credited to an inventor named Andreas Pavel in 1977, Sony was the company behind the release of this life-changing piece of technology. One of the reasons people were drawn to the Walkman — and what ultimately led to the success of the device — was the advertising leading up to the release, which suggested listening to music on-the-go could improve your life. The interest, coupled with the simplicity of the product, eventually led to one of the biggest launches by Sony at the time.
Headphones — 1910
It’s hard to imagine a life without headphones — they’re your saving grace during a boring morning commute and the perfect excuse for not engaging in small talk with your over-eager coworker. What you might not know though is that the first headphones debuted almost a hundred years before the first mp3 player and were invented by Nathaniel Baldwin to be sold to the U.S. Navy. They were clunky, uncomfortable, and carried a dangerous voltage that would occasionally shock users. Since then, both the technology and design have changed tenfold and given way to a cheap and — most importantly — comfortable way to listen to music without annoying your neighbors.