Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mp3 Players

This is an almost final draft of my latest writing assignment for my English class, enjoy if you wish.

The music industry has centered on forms over the decades. The media has changed many times; from analog to digital, from LP to CD, it continues to evolve before our eyes. The current mutation is in the form of compressed files that reside on a computer hard drives. Wav, Mp3, Ogg, and Mid are everyday words in my circles, representing 4 of the dozens of music file formats that live in cyberspace. New technology allows us to carry these files with us in small devices wherever we go with ever increasing capacities. The Apple iPod has become one of the most visible and popular of the music players seen today. Ask a random group of people and most of them will probably tell you that iPod is the best music player available, but that is only because the advertisements tell them that.
Turn on the TV, read a magazine, look at billboards and you will see an ad for an iPod, you practically have to go out of your way to avoid one. Apple followed the lead of such companies as Rio and Creative by releasing their own player, the iPod, named in the same fashion as their iMac and iBook computers. They realized several years ago that digital music players were going to be the next hot consumer music medium, and they were right. Dumping millions of dollars into their marketing campaign has allowed them to seize a sizable portion of the market. Now, thanks to the total media saturation, when most people think digital music, they think iPod. Apple’s marketing executives have done their job very well; I hope they all retire as billionaires.
The most common form of digital music today is MPEG-I Layer 3 Audio, more commonly shortened to Mp3. This format was revolutionary upon its introduction to the world in the early 1990s. Before Mp3, when computer hard drives were measured in megabytes, it was inconceivable to store an entire CD on a computer much less an entire collection. Mp3 made it possible to store music files on a computer hard drive as the data files were as much as 20 times smaller without substantially hurting the sound quality. The seeds for the new music revolution had been planted.
It took until 1999 with the introduction of Napster.com to make Mp3 mainstream. People now realized that they could copy entire CDs onto their computer, and share them with others, while getting new music from all over the world for free. Many music artists embraced the new medium that allowed them to share their music with the entire world, without having to deal with the large record companies who would never sign them to a contract. The music industry took notice and sued Napster out of existence. They did this because people were stealing their music instead of paying for their songs. Napster and many of its successors are now gone, but the Mp3 craze has stuck to this day. Creative Audio, a company specializing in consumer audio equipment, decided to release a small digital player that would hold the downloaded music for people to play on the go. Unlike a CD player, these devices were small, never skipped a beat when moved, and lasted a very long time on a single battery. A handful of companies soon released their own Mp3 players, including Rio, Sony, and eventually Apple.
Apple’s iPod was not a landmark technology when it was released, but it did influence the evolution of today’s digital music players. It incorporated a new interface that had not been seen before and a sleek design. A tiny hard drive replaced the memory commonly found in an Mp3 player which allowed for an impressive five gigabytes of music storage; this was half of the storage space of the average desktop computer at the time. Apple marketed their new iPod niche as their Mac computers where it was quickly embraced by their loyal Mac users. The fad had been born.
It took more than a year for the iPod to be introduced into the mainstream market where it began picking up a dedicated user base that is growing even as I type this. The iPod has evolved through several newer generations and can hold as much as sixty gigabytes of music at this time. The sleek design graces countless ads and people everywhere sport their trademark white earphones. Go into any major electronics store and you will see a large display featuring the iPod and many accessories. From the media saturation, you would never know that any other model of Mp3 player existed. Today, the name “iPod” itself has come to be worth about $100 by itself; the average cost of having the Apple logo on your Mp3 player. If you want an Mp3 player with more features than an iPod, a simplified interface, or more music storage they are readily available. If the 14 hours of battery found in an iPod not enough for you, get something with 40 hours of juice. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the iPod is a very good Mp3 player even if it is the most expensive, but it is not the best available. The early pioneers of portable audio players are still developing and releasing new and improved players that are several steps ahead of the iPod in features and functions. Why don’t I see TV commercials and billboards being graced by the Creative Zen or the Rio Carbon players? I don’t see them because the companies would rather invest in new technology than advertisements. This is what will keep these companies alive after the iPod trend fades like the 8-track tape.
Apple has everything bet on their iPod at the moment, completely eclipsing their other product. The other Mp3 player manufacturers have several lines of audio devices on the market, Apple has one. I’ve tried to stay away from the huge, name brand fads because the better product is lurking closely in its shadow. With technology advancing at the fastest rate in history, being left behind is an easy feat no matter how advanced the technology is at the moment. The iPod will someday be surpassed by its nameless competitors just as the BetaMax tape player was replaced by the VHS system which has been replaced by the DVD, which will be replaced when something better comes along.


EJB said...

My mom has a Rio. And as for that something better mentioned at the end that will likely be blue ray disks, or one of the other types using the same technology. It makes me glad that I and my family have not overly invested in DVD's. Or CDs for that matter because blue ray can hold both. I love that web site who's name I'm forgetting that has to do with home things work. I tearned how to pick locks there. Haven't got a chance to try it out though. I should do that.

Neemund said...

You're thinking about howstuffworks.com where I've probably read every article. Blu-Ray discs will probably not become the mainstream because they are a proprietary Sony product, but something similar will be released probably late this year which will be the 'official' sucessor to DVD. I could write a second paper on optical discs by themselves but this is an essay about mp3 players, and I already deviated too much as it is.

Jessica said...

Thanks. I'll keep this info in mind as I look for a good Mp3 this summer.

Do you have a reccomendation as for a certain brand?

Neemund said...

It really depends on how you use one. If you use it while jogging you are going to want a flash memory based player instead of a hard drive based player because the hard drive can't read data while it's being jolted around. Hard drive players hold many times more data on them; the high end have 60 or 80 gigabytes in them, while a high end memory based player holds less than 10. The advantage of the larger storage is obvious, you can store and carry every song you've ever heard in your life on it, while many memory based players will only hold a CD or two.
Personally I own and use a Creative Zen Touch player with a 20 gig hard drive. The main feature that I like about it is battery life, it will last as long as 32 hours, more than twice that of the iPod. It will also allow me to create new playlists on the go, I've realized that it is really lousy for jogging so I am currently in the market for a cheap memory player (probably in the 64 meg range). I paid $200 for my Zen on ebay which is about what they cost retail right now, but they're coming down in price now that the 40 gig model is out.

Jessica said...

Thanks that helps!