Who invented MP3s?

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Author's Note: Who invented MP3s?

How MP3 came about and what encoding the files entails made for pretty fascinating research. I've always been a fairly heavy consumer of music, first on vinyl, then tape, then CD, and I think it's fortuitous for music lovers that MP3 and other digital music formats came along and spurred the widespread distribution of music online (sound quality debates aside). I still like owning physical copies, but back in the days when in-store purchasing was our only choice, there was always a good possibility of disappointment. I shelled out for quite a few CDs often to discover that I only really liked one or two of the songs. Many of those disks are gathering dust on my shelves.

At some point I made a rule for myself that I would only buy an album if I knew I liked at least three of the songs (unless it was by one of my very favorite artists), and that seriously curbed my music purchasing. It's not like entire albums routinely get radio or music video play. But then things like Napster came along that allowed us to sample a wider variety of music than we'd been able to encounter by chance on the air before. And then Internet radio followed. I cannot tell you how many new artists I've discovered via my Pandora stations, and how many of their songs I've downloaded from iTunes.

There is probably some charm missing because we no longer get surprised by the b-side songs (before long, no one is even going to know what that means). But it is nice being able to spread the money around on tunes I know I'll listen to more than once. And now I can also digitize those lonely songs from the poor mostly-rejected CDs and listen to them just about anywhere without having to carry a bunch of disks with me, thanks to MP3 and its cousins.

Related Links


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