History and Future of Music Storage Methods

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History and Future of Music Storage Methods

Music is all around us. It is interesting to see the progress of technology in music and how it has shaped our culture.

Wax Cylinders

Wax cylinders (vinyl) have a mechanical method of recording and playing music. The data on the cylinder is stored linearly. It senses the transducer signal (vibrations) of the record and transmits it to a diaphragm. Sound was recorded onto a tin foil cylinder when the idea of a phonograph was first conceived. This was done by a diaphragm. The diaphragm captures the vibration of the soundwaves, which makes the needle (or stylus) imprint a mechanical form of the soundwave in an analog form onto the tin foil. When playback is desired, the impressions left on the tin foil from the original sound would then cause the needle to move, causing the diaphragm to vibrate, displacing the air and replicating the original sound.

Before the phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was the phonautograph by Leon Scott. I could record sound, however, not reproduce it.


Audiocassettes are a magnetic form of storing music. They proceeded vinyl records due to their compact design and lowered risk of being damaged. Cassettes are recorded linearly. Unlike the vinyl record, it uses a ferromagnetic substance to create a magnetized medium on the tape. It was popular because of its’ simplicity, one could record over the tape and it would retain it’s data. The transmitter is an electromagnet, which is used to record the tape. There are two sides to a tape, each side containing memory for 2 channels (stereo).

The audiocassette is an easier and flexible method of storing data than that of the phonograph. A phonograph is easier to damage than the cassette because it is not protected against the elements of everyday wear and tear. Scratches damage the phonograph’s ability to playback the recorded data on the phonograph. However, the audiocassette is prone to other types of damage than the phonograph. If left near a magnetic item, the fidelity of the data in the cassette may be at risk.

“This electromagnet is tiny - perhaps the size of a flattened pea. The electromagnet consists of an iron core wrapped with wire, as shown in the figure. During recording, the audio signal is sent through the coil of wire to create a magnetic field in the core. At the gap, magnetic flux forms a fringe pattern to bridge the gap and this flux is what magnetizes the oxide on the tape.
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