Evolution Of Portable Music — From Walkman To iPod
We now all take listening to music and watching video on the move for granted, but you only have to go back to the start of the 1980s to discover where it all began.
Three decades ago the Sony Walkman was unleashed on the UK market and started a revolution. For the first time it was easy to listen to pre-recorded music on the move, even if it meant that you had to carry a number of cassettes with you, or more likely, listen to the same tape over and over. Incredibly bulky by today’s standards but considered compact when launched, the Walkman set the standard that others followed. Anyone who can remember carrying around such an original portable cassette Walkman will be more than a little bemused at the capability of today’s portable devices and also their incredibly compact and battery-efficient design.
However, by 1984 the previously enormously bulky player had shrunk, to little over the size of the cassette it was playing, and batteries also lasted a lot longer. A CD-based version of the cassette player, known as a Discman was launched the same year. Some years later a minidisc version followed, but all those devices relied on playing some format of pre-recorded medium, rather than being able to store music digitally in the device.
It was the breakthrough to USB devices at the start of the 21st century that paved the way for today’s plethora of digital portable music devices. In little over a decade they have progressed to the point where they are now capable of storing more than 100 hours worth of music, equivalent to 250 albums. For example, an Apple 8GB iPod nano is capable of holding 2,000 songs or eight hours of video, or a combination of both.
MP3 players and iPods can operate for around 24 hours of solid audio without requiring recharging or, if you prefer, five hours of video playback. Weighing little over one and a half ounces these devices are now truly portable, to the point where they are smaller than the cassettes that slotted into the original portable music device — the Walkman.
Indeed, functionality has now progressed to the point where music and video players are now incorporated within smartphones, such as the iPod embedded on the iphone 3GS. This means that less devices need to be carried as the smartphone now performs all the functions of a music and video player, camera and web browser; functionality which could only be dreamed of in the 1980s!
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