Beats, binary, and how it affects the modern listener

Deloitte's Interplay Lab SXSW

01001101 01110101 01110011 01101001 01100011

For those of you who’re not quite fluent in binary, it spells “music”.

These strands of eight digit lines consisting of 1s and 0s have completely altered the way that music is transferred from its source to our ears.

There are a few key advances in music technology since the turn of the 20th century that have broken the most ground in improving our listening experience…

Music Technology: then 2 now

Headphones! First successfully produced by Nathaniel Baldwin and sold to the U.S. Navy for radio/intercom use in 1910. Today, we’re able to plug in our headphone cables to virtually anything and everything. We’ve even seen the elimination of headphone jacks in smartphones sparking popularity for bluetooth (but we’ll get to that in about seven more decades).

Four score and six or so years ago (~1931), we see the first commercially available vinyl long-playing record introduced by RCA. But those scratch easily and can warp, right? Fast forward to 1962 and we are presented the first cassette tape by Philips — the perfect alternative to writing a love letter to your crush. The cassette shrank down the record onto magnetic film and was more portable for a listener on the go. However, this film still degraded over a period of time.

*drum roll*

The year of Sony’s Walkman, 1979. A portable stereo. Music wherever, whenever. Sony effectively advertised the hell out of the Walkman’s launch. The idea that the capability to listen to music when we wanted would lead to a better life filled our headspace.

Three years later, Philips and Sony tag-teamed the compact disc (CD) in 1982. The ability to store more music on a smaller platform appealed to everyone. CD sales soon killed the popularity of vinyls but today we are seeing a growing market for these records once again.

Damn Swedes! Nils Rydbeck and Johan Ullman invented the world’s first wireless headset in 1989. We have now taken music portability to the utmost extreme where we can be playing music downstairs in the kitchen and listen upstairs in the bedroom. Later on, this would lead way to the bluetooth speaker.

The MP3 player was introduced to the American market by Eiger Labs. The F10 model was 32MB and was available for consumers in the summer of 1998.

Streaming sites have been becoming only more and more well-liked since 2001. They presented us with the easiest listening experience — now we can download millions and millions of high-quality tracks from modern sites.

The most recent innovation in the music technology field is DropMix. In 2017, Hasbro and Harmonix created a software that combines music and gaming to allow the user to be the DJ and compete with friends online to see who can create the better mix. DropMix was debuted in Austin during SXSW.

the takeaway

You can’t stop innovation. We must practice smart innovation to introduce new concepts without bringing the downfall to others. With the rise of streaming services, we have to make the conscious choice to support and invest in local, live music to give artists the credit and compensation they earn and deserve.

Humans have always marched to the beat of the drum. You’re able to support music education, local businesses, and community by supporting local bands.