Today is the 10th Anniversary of iTunes. What started as a way to legally download music has morphed into a digital giant. On April 28, 2003, there were 200,000 songs available to download for 99¢ each. Today the numbers are mind-numbing (over 20 billion songs sold), and of course the available downloads include not only music, but also apps, movies, books, music videos, and so much more.
What was life like before iTunes? I’m sure there are some youngsters of today who can’t even imagine a world without music-on-demand.
I am old enough to remember a stack of 45’s on a record player.
You’d grab a pile of records, order them as you’d like to hear them (the original playlist? 🙂 ) and then load them on the spindle. Each record would play, and then another would drop, and so on. The spindle, however, was a lot smaller than the opening on those 45’s, so we needed an adapter. I’m guessing that if we showed one of these gadgets to random people on the street, there would be many many folks (especially those under a certain age) who would have absolutely no idea what this plastic gizmo is used for.
We graduated from 45’s to LPs (a long playing record). As a teenager in the 60’s, I gathered quite a large collection of these LP albums. That collection still sits in my basement… full of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Four Seasons, the Who, the Doors, Peter Paul and Mary, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas… so much music! And so clearly “then”. I wonder how the teenagers of today will hold on to their music memories? Certainly this boatload of albums is a physical reminder for me. Will the digital collection be as powerful?After LPs the big innovation was the 8 track tape. These were huge clunky plastic cartridges with the new ability to choose a song to hear, rather than having to listen to all of them in order (as you did on an LP). However, a frequent complaint was that as you listened to one song, you could faintly hear another in the background. And, of course, you had to buy the whole album. And it would jam up. And the cases would crack. In general, 8 tracks were not the best way to do music. However, for teenagers they were great since you could have an 8 track player installed in your car and listen to your music as you drove. That gave it a “wow” factor.
Gradually the compact cassette took over. I remember the thrill of being able to bring my “own” music into the car with me. It was very common to copy LPs to cassettes, even making your own ‘mix tapes’. Many home stereo systems included a cassette player/recorder so that you could copy record-to-tape or even tape-to-tape. We still have our big old dinosaur LP-cassette ‘machine’ down in the basement. I’ve included this picture, cobwebs and all.Then came the compact discs. I really thought that was the ultimate. Couldn’t get better than that.
But now CDs are yesterday’s news. Just ask a young person. They aren’t buying them.
It’s all digital now. And to me, this seems like “the end.” But of course it won’t be the end. There will be something else. I wonder what it will be?