Audio Hardware

I remember my father’s 8-track player, and the stack of music that dwarfed the workbench in the garage for years after the advent of cassette players.

Before I aged to the double digits, I had acquired my first Walkman, which was followed by a Discman, and then I ignored portable music players altogether for several years. At one point I had myself almost talked into a MiniDisc player, but thankfully I never followed through.

Into the digital age

In college I discovered MP3s, and quickly converted my optical media to digital files. I filled my Jaz discs with music, lamented the fact that playing MP3s took 90% of my cpu, and eagerly awaited each new Winamp beta.

My younger brother got a 64mb MP3 player for christmas, and I was amused by the 64kbps file size used to estimate the number of songs it would hold. Despite its limitations, I coveted it, but I resolved to hold out until the players had matured significantly. Since I spend the bulk of my life tethered to a computer, I had little need to carry around my music.

The better part of a decade passed, and I made due. For a year I was into listening to terrestrial radio over the internet, but that phase soon passed. At one point I had an old laptop with a 2.1gb hard drive running Winamp hooked up to my car, complete with a cassette adapter, dc adapter, and a gamepad to control playback. That proved to draw too many awkward stares from passengers, and I soon fell back on radio. A new car brought with it my first in-dash cd player, followed by an upgrade to a trunk mounted cd changer.

Making the final plunge

During this draught of portable MP3 hardware, Apple rolled out the iPod, and soon began to dominate the market; Still I resisted. When the iPod Nano 1g debuted, and caved in and bought one. I took the sleek black 4gb device and covered it with a transparent protective skin, and then encased it in aluminum. I spent countless hours tweaking it, adding album art to songs, and doing everything in my power to avoid installing iTunes for Windows. Coupled with an overpriced car adapter, I was able to ditch the cd changer and listen to my MP3s in the car again. That little player served me well for several years, and is currently sporting 30 minutes max of battery life. I’m still not entirely sure why I keep it around.

At some point I went back to the radio; I just needed to hear new music. After a few frustrating weeks of voice memos to myself to keep track of new artists and songs I liked, I found a little song ID app for my mobile that would identify songs through the mic, and email me the artist and title. Soon I built up a library of new songs, and I gladly shut off the radio DJs and commercials in favor of actual music.

The iPod Shuffle 2g was the next player to catch my eye, and its 1gb of space is still filled with power songs for running. The iPod Touch 2g managed to reel me in this year, and I spend at least an hour a day using it. Its permanently in my pocket or in my hand. The funny thing is though, I hardly listen to MP3s on it.

Sure, I use it in the car, but that’s about it. I haven’t played an MP3 in months on the computer. Streaming music has become my musical vehicle of choice, with Pandora and fighting for my affections. I’ve discovered dozens of fantastic new bands, and generated some eye opening metrics about my listening preferences.

I look at the collection of music I have, and it seems like such a waste. I spent a decent chunk of time encoding, tagging, and organizing my music. I bought cd after cd when all I really wanted was a song or two, not to mention the cassettes I replaced with cds of the same music. Physical media is long dead in my eyes, and even digital copies are beginning to lose their luster. When I want to listen to music, I just stream it from the internet.

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