Cover Story | The way we get our music has changed over time. The first known audio recording didn’t come about until 1860, the record player didn’t come around until 1877, and radios weren’t used commercially until the 1900’s. These were all revolutionary during their time but compared to the way music is consumed today, they all seem like they belong on display in a museum, not as viable ways to listen to your favorite songs (yes, even the radio). The 90’s brought with it a new way of enjoying our favorite artists and paved the way for the way how we listen today.
In the 1960’s cassettes came on the scene and people loved them. Cassette players replaced 8-tracks in our cars (they were way easier to deal with and wouldn’t cut your favorite song off right at the good part, jumping to the next track) which made them the primary medium to experience music for most of our parents. And when Walkman’s finally came along it gave people the option of leaving their oversized boomboxes at home and enjoying their music without treating every pedestrian to a concert of their favorite songs. They also allowed people to record, which came in handy in the era of making personalized mixtapes for your potential boo(s). All in all, they were a much-appreciated step forward in the evolution of the audio experience.
While cassettes were good for listening to music on the go, they had some issues. The magnetic tape and spools that they were built from made them compact, but they had their downsides: 1. The magnetic tape was always breaking or getting twisted, 2. It didn’t sound good, especially when compared to vinyl albums which were still around, and 3. Finding a specific song was almost impossible. But in the early 90’s cd’s came to the rescue and became the preferred method of listening to music or anything else.
Cd’s eliminated most of the problems we had with cassettes while keeping the positive features and adding a few additional perks. People could create their own custom albums (a step up from the mixtapes that came before them). And because of the growing popularity of computers and the internet, people were now able to download and share their music with others. That meant no more waiting for the radio to play your favorite songs to hit record/play on your stereo, now you could go to a friend’s house and take what you needed!
However, cd players weren’t the last iteration of music listening devices of the 90’s. While everyone was worrying about the looming devastation that Y2K would bring, mp3s were taking over. It’s easy to forget, but for a brief time during the 90’s and 2000’s mp3 players were everything to everyone who weren’t my grandparents. iPods and other brands of mp3s (remember Zunes??) came in a ton of designs and colors. This made them the most desirable accessory for youth and adults alike. They were also the predecessor to streaming services that make up the lion’s share of the audio market today. This only goes to show that, once again, the 90’s made the world a better place.
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