The Revolutionary MP3 Player
The MP3 player, which is a compression format that shrinks digital audio files with negligible sound-quality degradation, has revolutionized the way people can listen to music (MP3 Developments). The technological advances that the MP3 player has made were all possible due to its predecessors. The MP3 is incredibly small, dynamic, slim, easy to operate and lightweight to accommodate all types of people who might purchase and use one. The history of the MP3 player is extremely in depth and just recently, up for debate.
MP3 is short for MPEG Audio Layer III, which is a standard for audio compression, making music files smaller with the same type of sound quality they had in their bigger files (The History of MP3). Although Apple did not invent the MP3 player, its line called iPods, helped soar the MP3 to unprecedented popularity (What is an MP3 Player?). All the music can be stored on one device, which one downloads on to, making it portable and easily accessible. The user of the device can create song playlists tailored to their likes and wants. One can access files off the internet, either free or at a small fee, or could copy songs off their favorite CD’s, to put on the MP3 player and listen to.
When Shawn Fanning started Napster in 2000, the online music base where downloading music was free, music moguls were scared that their industry and business would be ruined. CD sales, however, actually increased by 6 percent in the beginning of 2000 (Rage Against the Machines). Since Napster was founded, it has been reformatted to where the user now has to pay a fee and can then download music. Napster is not a free service anymore. Since these technological developments and advancements were making headway in the music world, this meant that profits would inevitably decrease for these music moguls who had already been in the business for more than sixty years. Technology made listening to music extremely easy (Rage Against the Machines). There have always been new forms of music emerging, new enemies that the competition or the already established companies had to deal with. It was a never-ending cycle and battle.
In the 1920’s and 30’s the radio was seen as the foe. Record companies and musicians’ unions would wage war with the radio stations that played recorded music instead of featuring the live performances (Rage Against the Machines). In 1963 Philips presented the audio cassette tape, which in turn pivoted the rage and anger towards that market, instead of the radio (Rage Against the Machines). History repeats itself and with each new technology in the music world, the anger is directed towards the new implemented idea or product. These feelings by the various companies are inescapable.
Audio technology is forever improving its quality and technologies accessible to their clientele. In the early 19th century, the phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison, and the Gramophone, by Emile Berliner, were massive and bulky (MP3 Developments). Through the decades the music players changed, creating the small, compact image of today’s standards. The very first successful recording device was developed in 1855, but that didn’t really catch on to the mainstream audience until Edison’s phonograph in 1877 (MP3 Developments). «Long players,» more commonly known as LPs, came in 1947 with a face pace of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, upping the ante for their predecessors MP3 Developments).
James Clerk Maxwell developed the theoretical basis for the propagation of electromagnetic waves in 1873, which paved the way for the radio to flourish. The radio was basically used for the military during World War I. When RCA, or the Radio Corporation of America, obtained the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929, music as known presently, was initiated (MP3 Developments). The radio brought musical enjoyment to the masses. One could be sitting at home, in the car or at a public place, and could tune in to the station or programming that they wanted to listen to. This technology brought forth the idea of mobility.
The 8-track, invented by William Powell, came in the early 1960’s. Music was masked by horrible sound quality because of misalignments in the tape and tape heads, which caused bleeds of other songs on the tape (MP3 Developments). There was only forty minutes of music on the whole 8-track.
The average cassette tape did not reach homes until the late 1970’s, but were previously used in recording studios since the 1950’s (MP3 Developments). Cassettes were smaller than the 8-track, and had a higher sound quality. In 1979, Sony debuted the Walkman, which made cassette sales increase substantially in the 1980’s. The compact disc, otherwise known as the CD, succeeded the cassette tape, in the late 1980’s. The CD’s used a digital storing system (MP3 Developments). The MP3, which will later be discussed, increased CD storage capabilities by ten times, not reducing the sound quality at all (MP3 Developments).
Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft, a German company, developed the MP3 technology (The History of MP3). Bernhard Grill, Karl Heinz-Brandenburg, Thomas Sporer, Bernd Kurten, and Ernst Eberlein were all inventors named on the MP3 patent (The History of MP3). The MP3 was invented in 1989 in Erlangen, Germany (MP3 Developments). Frauenhofer, in the early 1990’s developed the first MP3 player; however, that was an unsuccessful attempt (The History of MP3). In 1997, Tomislav Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products invented the AMP MP3 Playback Engine, which became the first actual MP3 player (History of MP3).
In recent developments there are disputes of tangled origins within the MP3 technology invention. Microsoft, among other companies, has been paying Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, for their licensing of MP3 audio format (Patent Fights). There are a number of companies who worked on developing the MP3 player for almost twenty years, who now should be paid for legalities. Thomson, Royal Philips Electronics and AT&T, have laid patent claims on the MP3 technology, which have ensued a substantial number of lawsuits, and occasionally seizures of music players by some customs authorities (Patent Fights). Alcatel-Lucent, part of Bell Labs and AT&T, says they were the «main creative engine behind what went on to become the MP3 standard,» (Patent Fights). To make matters worse, the MP3 patent right saga continues, with many companies stepping forward saying that they had a hand in the development and execution of the MP3 technology.
The MP3 relates to a vast amount of technologies currently available. Many cell phone makers have added built in MP3 players to their cell phones. A person can purchase one product but obtain two great features on it; the cell phone and the MP3 player. This lets the consumer only be obligated to carry one piece of equipment rather than two. In 2005, Apple’s iPod and Motorola’s Razr V3 combined these two technologies, providing a communication synergy that was unheard of in previous times (Digital World Insider). These phones equipped with MP3 player capabilities revolutionized the cell phone industry, providing wireless connection to the World Wide Web to access downloadable songs and music videos, as in the V-Cast phone, currently on the market. Memory Stick Duo Pro cards, can be inserted into the phone to download one’s CD’s to their phone as well.
There are numerous adjustments being made to MP3 players daily. Some MP3 players are now being released to the public that have Bluetooth capabilities. Bluetooth means that it is a form of wireless communication, depending on what is being referred to as the context of the subject. The Insignia 4-Gigabyte Player can broadcast MP 3 music and video soundtracks all to a pair of headphones, connected by no wires (An MP3 Player with Bluetooth). This new player can hold up to 1,000 songs, and 14 movies, and also has an FM tuner with 20 preset channels (An MP3 Player with Bluetooth).
MP3 players are convenient, small and easily portable. Since it’s so handy and affordable too, most people have MP3 players, however, in decades to come many of these people might have incurred threatening health risks that one could have evaded. Most new technologies, although helpful, provide input into the health world, which decrease a person’s life and living standards. An example of this is the remote control, which ultimately contributed a small part to the obesity problem that is sweeping the country. Many people using MP3 players listen to their music for long periods of time, at a loud setting.
«With the older devices, like the Walkman, if you turned them up all the way, they sounded very bad, so people didn’t do it. Now, they don’t sound bad at maximum volume, and that could pose a problem,» said Jodi Cook, Ph.D., director of the hearing aid program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in an article posted on the Mayo Clinic website. Once the damage occurs to one’s ear it’s permanent and non reversible. The hair cells in the cochlea, part of the inner ear, aids in transmitting sound to the brain (Hearing Loss). These cells often recover from temporary damage, such as a rock concert or being in an overly loud environment, for a few hours. The sound becomes muffled after under these conditions, but return to normal in a couple of hours or so. Exceedingly deafening noises, like a gunshot, or moderately loud noise continuing for long amounts of time, permanently damage these hair cells (Hearing Loss). When the hairs become destroyed, they do not recover and loss of hearing occurs (Hearing Loss).
Around thirty million Americans have hearing loss and 1/3 of them have noise-induced hearing loss (Hearing Loss). If a sound is over ninety decibels at a prolonged exposure, creates some kind of hearing loss. Most portable music players produce sounds up to 120 decibels (Hearing Loss). One does not feel hearing loss, in fact it takes years to see a difference and be diagnosed with permanent loss of hearing.
In ear earphones are the worst earphones to have. One study showed that they increase the decibel level between 7 to 9. Earphones that sit over the ear usually have lower decibel range, being a tad safer for the ear (Hearing Loss). There is not much risk to listening to music if the player is at a level where one can still carry on a normal conversation. At risk people include those that keep their MP3 player head phones set 60% higher than the maximum level, if one can’t hear conversations going on around them, if those near can hear the music and if one is shouting instead of talking to those nearby (Hearing Loss).
One benefit of the MP3 player has been how the device aids in exercising. Since the MP3 player is portable, lightweight and easily accessible, it’s the perfect companion to those who like to exercise and burn calories. Often people listen to music to workout because it helps them keep pace and motivates them. The tempo of the song can also help speed up the person’s workout or get the person ready for the cool down based on the songs pacing, like a slower song verse a fast pace one.
MP3 players are currently all the rage. From its predecessors the MP3 player technology has taken the way everyone listens to music to new heights. Its versatility, mobility and accessibility help in making the popularity of this device soar.
Nicole Gawel. Reporter for The Metro Group and Metrowny.com. The Metro Group publishes 28 weekly papers in the Buffalo, NY area. You can read more articles by Nicole and our other reporters at http://www.metrowny.com
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