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Music Player Evolution: From Cassette, CD, iPod to Spotify

Music Player Evolution: From Cassette, CD, iPod to Spotify

Music, one of the things that makes life so beautiful, is never something that you can get enough of. Since a few decades ago, the way we enjoy music has been change so much, from vinyl record, cassette, Walkman, CD, MD player, MP3 player, iPod and now Spotify.


When you listen to an old song, it always reminds you of the time when you first listened to it. Memories, images and the people around you during that period of time come to your mind. It makes you happy; it calms you down. Music is so powerful.

I was born in a generation of time where vinyl record and cassette was in the last stage of its fall, and the disc was on the rise.

I spent much of my childhood listening to cassettes on a cassette player or Walkman. You couldn’t shuffle through different songs with a single click nor jump to a particular part of the tape with a simple swipe, you had to rewind and forward a tape by long-pressing the buttons that rolled the tape to the right spot. You could also record a song you listened on the radio into the cassette and you would treat it like the most precious thing in the world.

Some people were obsessed with maintaining the tapes and roll them up nicely with a pencil. When you listened to it too often, the audio would become rustic which is kind of intriguing. During those days where technology was simple, you spent time on listening to music you liked and did manual work to make sure that the music stayed on good quality.

And then the compact disc and CD player came. They became very common in the late 90s. Everyone wanted one. I bought stacks of discs during my teenage time, and would first listen to an entire music album on a Walkman player.

No long after, the MD player and MP3 player arrived. I converted the songs from CD into MP3 via my computer so I could listen to the MP3 on the go. It saved me some weights on carrying the CD player but then the quality of MP3 would never be the same.

Before I got familiar to the MP3 player, the iPod came. I remember when I first saw it, I thought “what a crazy little thing it is, just one button and you can play all your music?”

I went on chasing after the iPod, iPod Mini, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle. I had almost all the early generations of iPod. The covet for new gadget was insane and even additive. I still bought CDs and transferred the music to my iTunes and then to my iPod. By then, listening to music had become a trendy thing, it was more about the device than the songs.

Then, the cloud-based Spotify was launched in Hong Kong a few years ago. You could play songs on any device as long as you download and subscribe to Spotify. I stopped buying CDs. I listened to all my music on my iPhone, iPad and computer. There’s no limitation of devices anymore. Wireless headphones and speakers also started to surface and became more and more affordable. You don’t even need a wire to connect to music.

The technology evolution has gained us convenience, style and even prestige while music has become much less costly. Less people appreciate music to its fullest: the sound quality, stories behind a song and even who sings the song.

Where’s that excitement and haste I had when I rushed to the store to get the latest albums of my favorite bands? What have I done to support good artists and singers? I asked myself recently. And let’s be honest, we spend more money buying devices that play music then the music itself. It used to be the opposite. You bought a vinyl record player and soon you could break even after some purchases of the records.

So one day I went into HMV and bought my first CD in the last 5 years. I looked at the names of the singer, producer and I looked at the song titles and lyrics. I tried to appreciate every piece of information I could find.

It’s kind of silly, because I already had all the songs in that album on my Spotify. But I think that the real reason was that I didn’t want to see CDs die. CDs are also visible, and I know that when I look at them years later, I will be able to remember those nice songs and memories that I have at this moment. I don’t have to dig through my numerous playlists and find the songs which I don’t even remember the titles for.

Music is formless and timeless. It’s precious, beautiful and powerful. It’s everywhere. Being able to visualize, even for something virtual like music, is the best thing you can do to keep your memories. I’m sure I’ll keep buying CDs from now on.

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