Antecedents and Evolution

From a very early age, I’ve loved music.  I remember being in elementary school and sitting by the radio.  I would wait and wait for a certain song to come on so that I could record it onto a cassette tape that I was compiling with all of my favorite songs.  Nowadays, if we want to hear a song, all we have to do is go online and search for it on Youtube or in iTunes and within seconds, it’s at our reach.  The fun of making a mix tape still lives on in me, only now it’s a lot easier and the quality is much better.

Reel to Reel TapeReel to Reel

The reel-to-reel tape stemmed from the invention of the magnetic tape in 1928 by Fritz Pfleumer in Germany.  Pfleumer held the first patent for what we would call a “tape recording”.  Improvements on the reel to reel technology continued on into the 1940’s and commercial development really took off after World War II.  Reel to reel tape became the standard for mastering music phonograph recordings and in radio broadcasting. [1] Reel to reel  tape has been used in many music recordings.  An example of artists using this technique is The Beatles. They used this process for some of their recordings.  Open reel to reel tape was the dominant format up until the 1980’s when digital media started to develop.[2]

The Record (Vinyl) Pearl Jam Vinyl of Ten

The vinyl record was popular from the 1950’s – 1990’s and has even started to re-emerge again as of 2008. Records were generally used for commercial music reproduction. Unlike the reel-to reel, records were not used by people for dictation purposes. A major problem with records is their sensitivity to heat. A record left out in the sun, or even in warm temperatures would cause the record to warp and melt.

Records nowadays are used primarily for collecting purposes as well as by DJ’s. In 2010, 2.8 million records were sold which is the most sales since records began to be kept in 1991, when vinyl had been overshadowed by CDs and cassettes. [3]

Eight Track8 Track

The lifespan of the 8 Track was pretty short lived (1960’s – 1970’s). Bill Lear, the creator of the 8-track, convinced Ford to install an 8-track player in the dashboards of the Mustangs and the Fairlanes in 1966.[4] This was the first means of hearing audio in a car. The 8-track itself was created to eliminate having to handle the reels themselves. It was much smaller and you could take it with you in the car. It was eventually phased out by the cassette due to the size and rewinding capability.

Life After The Cassette

Compact Discs (CD’s) and Digital Media

The CD became widely accepted in the 1990’s.  It offered more storage and didn’t lose sound quality when sound was transferred from CD to CD.  It was also fairly inexpensive and could compete directly with the cassette.  While the CD is still used today, technology is slowly starting to phase it out as well.

[1] The History of Magnetic Recording, BBC, (accessed March 28, 2011)

[2] Vintage Audio Recording History, (accessed March 28, 2011)

[3]Vinyl Sales Increase Despite Industry Slump | Rolling Stone Music, Matthew Perpetua, (accessed March 28, 2011)

[4]History of the 8-Track Tape-William Lear Invents the 8-Track | (accessed April 09, 2011)

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