Personalized music took a big leap towards what we call the Ipod generation today , way back in 1979 when Sony introduced its audio cassette player Walkman. When we see the original Walkman today it does seem outdated and for many a piece of junk. But 30 years back it was a breakthrough in terms of technological advancement and an instant sensation worldwide which continued for decades. WALKMAN:
Walkman is a portable audio cassette player which introduced a change in listening habits and providing people an opportunity to listen to the music of their own choice, which seemed a distant dream before its inception when transistor radios were the only option for the masses.
Origin and History: The first original Walkman was launched by Sony that went on sale on 1st July 1979, in Japan. It was launched subsequently under different names in many countries for instance, – In US it was launched under the name Soundabout .
– In Sweden it was launched under the name Freestyle.
. – In UK it was launched under the name Stowaway. The device was built in 1978, by an audio division engineer Nobotushi Kihara who worked for Sony. Sony’s co-chairman Morita who wanted to listen operas during his frequent plane trips requested for such a device and therefore Nobotushi came up with the Walkman. Although Morita hated the name Walkman and insisted on changing it , but accepted later on when junior executives told him that a campaign had been started and changing the name now would cost the company dearly.
(Sony History) Cassette-based Walkman: The first and original Walkman was a blue and silver cassette-based model TPS-L2.
It came with one set of headphones and had limited features of play, stop and forward with no record function. In 1984, Sony presented its memorable model Walkman Professional WM-D6C. It was comparable in audio quality with most non-portable audio cassette decks.. Among the standard play,stop functions it also introduced the record function which made it famous.
Later on, Toshiba’s Walky , Aiwa’s Cassette Boy and Panasonic’s Stereo-To-Go were giving stiff competition to the Walkman. Therefore in 1989, Sony launched its famous and unique playback only model WM-DD9, this model attracted a niche following with hardcore Walkman fans making it a must in their collection. It featured auto-reverse and had improved power consumption requiring only 1 AA battery with optional AC adapter input. Moreover it had superior sound quality as compared to its predecessors.
Although the cassette based walkman had started losing its appeal probably due to increasing competition from Sanyo and emergence of CDs as a better storage medium in all respects, Sony still kept launching new models every 5 years uptill 2000, these models not only continued to represent features of previous models but also had some new ones of their own for intance, WM-701S which also came out in 1989 was more user-friendly as it came with a remote control and slim silver plated body. After which cassettes had reached technological obsolence and any future production of cassette-based models had to be stopped.
(Sony Design- 1980s) PORTABLE CD PLAYERS: Portable CD players took personalized music to a further new level from portable cassette players. These players used audio CDs instead of cassettes , not only CDs were lighter than cassettes but they could store considerably more than multiple cassettes could or could record in a much better audio format which would give a superior sound quality than cassettes. History: CDs as a storage medium were introduced in the early 1980s. Once again Sony created history in 1984 when it launched its CD-based Walkman (which was a first of its kind portable CD player) D-50.
Although it was also known as D-5 in some markets but its official name was Discman. Discman was considered a marvel , its size was just a little more than that of a CD case which made it very handy. Moreover it had additional features and better sound quality as compared cassette-based walkman but still they managed to gain momentum till the late 1980s because CDs were quite expensive prior to that and CD players didn’t had anti-shake protection feature which caused CDs to damage since they were delicate. (Discman) Evolution of CD Players:
Portable CD players had the basic features of a cassette player besides that it also had some new features for instance hold, toggle in later versions and portable CD players in the present age are capable of supporting numerous audio formats as well . In the mid-nineties these players also featured a LCD display also. Since Sony was continuing to face increasing competition from Panasonic in the late 1980s, it improved its own design of Discman and came up with a new model D121 which had additional features from its predecessors.
The competition is still ongoing with Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Bose, Coby etc. coming up with new portable cd players after every few months. Although Ipods are the in thing these days but still portable cd players continue to survive probably because CDs haven’t gone into obsolence like cassettes did. However they don’t enjoy the same popularity they did in late 1980s and mid 90s. MINI-DISC PLAYERS: Mini disc was a magneto-optical disc. It could store upto 80 minutes of digitized audio almost that of CD quality.
Mini-disc players were capable of playing these storage media. The reason MD was launched was because they had the anti-skip feature which prevented disc-skipping even under the most extreme conditions and was unlike CDs which used to skip on the slightest of vibration and shocks and used to annoy users. History: Sony launched its first MD Player in 1992 named MZ1 along with the Mini-disc itself. However many other companies for instance JVC, Sharp, Pioneer and Panasonic launched their respective mini-disc players as well.
MD Players were initially launched as an alternative to Philips analogue cassette system which was quite popular at that time. Moreover till the mid-nineties MD players were popular in Japan and Asia but largely unknown elsewhere. (Music on the move: Minidisc) Evolution of the Mini-disc and the Mini-disc player: nitially when Sony introduced the Mini-disc it was based on ATRAC audio data compression but later it was based on linear PCM inorder to give CD quality audio. Although MD Walkmans when launched by Sony were multi-featured i. e.
they could play and record on MDs from both digital and analogue sources for example, live audio from their microphone inputs ; but were somewhat large and couldn’t be placed in a pocket. Therefore, Sony released a new model MZ-R2 which was quite compact. MD Walkmans gradually improved over the years for instance, when MDLP(Mini-disc Long Play) was introduced in MDs in 2000 which allowed MDs to record 4 times of what they initially could MD Players were enabled with this feature and many in the following years for example, Net MD, Hi MD. (Sony MZ RH1) MP3 PLAYERS:
MP3 players are also technically known as Digital Audio Players. It is a device that stores, organizes and plays audio files. MP3 players were a breakthrough in their own right since they didn’t require CDs or cassettes to be inserted into them , common features of an MP3 player were a flash memory drive or a miniature hard drive, an embedded processor and an audio codec microchip which would convert digitally compressed sound into analogue form which was then played through the speaker jack. The user can store hundreds of songs on the flash memory drive/mini hard drive.
History: The first MP3 player came from a Korean company SaeHan Information Systems which in collaboration with Eiger Labs US launched in 1998 the first solid state digital audio player named MPMan . It featured 32 Mb of RAM which could hold 8 average length of tracks( i. e. 32 minutes of music). (World’s 1st MP3 Player) The same year Diamond Multimedia lauched its version of MPMan named Rio PMP300. However its sales were better than expected initially but later had a fall from grace probably due to lawsuits. (Collecting MP3 Portables)
In 1999, Compaq developed the first hard-drive based mp3 player in collaboration with HanGo Electronics and named it PJB-100(Personal Jukebox). The player had a capacity of 4. 8 GB and it was extensively advertised that it could hold 1200 songs! (Net Audio) Evolution Of MP3 Players: Initially MP3 players supported only the . mp3 format but in the following years MP3 players started supporting multiple formats for example , AAC, WMA, WAV, Ogg Vorbis. – Flash-based MP3 players: These are solid state devices that store audio files on internal flash memory.
Initially internal memory of these players was in a few MBs and users couldn’t store any more than on a CD but soon makers got notice of this and today we see internal memory in GBs which is capable of holding hundreds of songs. (World ‘s 1st 32 GB Flash based PMP) Similarly, internal memory couldn’t be extended by users however in a couple of years removable flash memory was made available better known as memory cards. Moreover with the passage of time , these players became more resilient and required less power consumption as compared to portable CD player or a hard-drive based mp3 player.
– Hard-drive based Players: These devices are also known as Digital Jukeboxes. Initially their capacity was 4-5 GB but these days players are available with capacity upto 250 GB. This loosely means that thousands of songa could be stored on a single player. (Wolverine ESP 250 GB) – MP3 CD Players: With the growth in popularity of MP3 players and mp3 format itself . Many portable CD players started supporting playback for CDs which had MP3 files stored on them. iPOD REVOLUTION: iPod is a popular brand of portable media players which are designed by Apple Inc.
Apple has produced a number of models over years iPod Classic, iPod Nano to name a few. iPods have become a sensation for this generation and seems to be for the following ones too just like Walkman was in the 1980s. As per stats upto September 2008, 173 million iPods have been sold worldwide which has made it the best selling portable music player ever. History: In early 2000, Apple had started making software for the growing market of digital audio players. The company found that the MP3 players were either too big (those that were hard-drive based) or too small (those that were flash-drive based) and had mediocre user-interfaces.
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs took the initiative, he decided that Apple would make their own PMPs(personal music players). Therefore Apple’s hardware engineering head Jon Rubinstein assembled a team including hardware engineers Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey and a design engineer Jon Ive, however Apple didn’t make the product completely on in-house instead they used Portal Player( a semi-conductor company) platform based on 2 ARM cores. Nevertheless the product within an year and was unveiled on 23rd October 2001, it was a Mac-compatible product with 5 Gb hard-drive and could hold upto 1000 songs.
The name iPod was suggested by Vinnie Chieco a freelance copy-writer. iPod Models: – iPod Classic: It was the iPod that was launched originally. Uptill now six generations have been produced of this model and is the only model that is hard-drive based. – iPod Mini: Its first generation was launched in 2004. However it was discontinued after its 2nd generation. Its storage medium was based on mini hard-drive. – iPod Shuffle: iPod Shuffle was first introduced in January 2005. Due to it smaller size and sleeker look it became an instant hit. Its flash-drive based PMP. Uptill now 2 generations have been produced of this model.
– iPod Nano: iPod Nano was also a flash-drive based model. It was also launched the same year Shuffle was launched . What separated Nano from Shuffle was its greater storage capacity and coloured display. – iPod Touch: It is the latest in the iPod family and was launched in 2007. It was also a flash drive based model similar to Nano and Shuffle . But Touch is way ahead of all of its predecessors. It was the first iPod with Wi-Fii and Multitouch interface. Moreover it featured the Safari browser and wireless access to iTunes Stores and YouTube. (Identifying Ipods) Software:
Initially when Apple introduced its iTunes software it was only compatible with Mac OS but later on Apple a Windows version of it as well. iPod first generation models although various audio formats, image formats and video formats but only worked with Mac-OS. However when Apple launched its second generation models the software within those models was compatible with MS Windows. Apple developed alternatives for various formats which were previously not supported by it for example, Microsoft’s WMA audio format was not supported earlier so they provided a converter along with their Windows version of iTunes.
Adding further open source formats like Ogg Vorbis, FLAC were previously not supported however these formats can be played now on installing a firmware onto the iPod for example, Rockbox User-Interface: All iPods have colour displays which incorporates anti-aliased graphics and text with sliding animations. Moreover except iPod shuffle and iPod Touch all other iPods have 5 buttons and second generation onwards buttons have been integrated on the click wheel. Click-wheel is an innovation that brings refineness and clarity to the interface.
The buttons given perform the basic play,stop etc. functions as for scrolling the click-wheel is used in a rotational manner. In its later models Apple made some changes for instance, iPod Touch doesn’t have a click wheel instead it has a 3. 5 inch touchscreen and in addition to it a home button , a sleep/wake button and volume up/down button. Hardware: A typical iPod comprises of the following chipset and electronics: – Microcontroller – Audio Chip – Storage Medium – Batteries
Different iPods have used different microcontrollers along their different generations for example, iPod Nano used a variable-speed ARM in its first generation model however it has continued to use Samsung System-On Chip second generation onwards. iPod Classic has a hard-drive based storage medium and has been since first generation however the capacity has increased considerably i. e. from 10 GB in its first generation model to 160 GB in its sixth generation model. Similarly, iPod Mini was based on the Mini Hard-drive however Apple discontinued it after its 2nd generation model.
Moving on iPod Nano, Shuffle and Touch are flash-drive based and there capacity has also increased considerably with newer models. Connectivity: Originally Apple used a Firewire connection was used to the host computer and for charging battery. Third generation onwards, Apple allowed both Firewire and USB connectivity. This allowed for better compatibility with PCs. Therefore 5th generation onwards Apple dropped Firewire for data transfer and made complete transition to USB 2. 0 in an attempt to reduce cost . CONCLUSION: From Walkman to iPod people have seen a great advancements in personal music players.
Walkman ruled 1980s which continued till the mid-nineties. However , after that advancements were made very speedily and we saw MD players, MP3 players and finally the iPod in 2001. iPod completely redefined infact revolutionised portable entertainment. Infact in these 8 years since its inception it has made record breaking sales and won several awards for engineering excellence , it has acheived much more than what the Walkman in a decade and a half. But then again, Walkman has its own place in history and iPod is making its own. ? REFERENCES: Sony Global, n. d. , “Sony History” retrived from : <http://www.
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