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Tuesday 9 October 2012

The evolution of the music player

It seems that just about every device you can buy has a music player embedded into it these days. But it wasn’t so long ago that we were taping Top of the Pops from the TV onto cassettes, shushing our parents if they dared to chat during The Smiths. As a John Lewis guest blogger I'm taking a look at the history of the music player from the 1920s right up to the present day to see just much things have changed.

Forget DAB radios in a range of cute colours to match your home decor. Back in the 1930s, if you wanted to listen to the radio you needed a set made of wood or Bakelite and a hell of a lot of floor space. It also came in any colour you liked – as long as it was brown.  Families huddled round their wireless sets to listen to sports, news reports and music, with modern jazz being the pop music of the day. The situation improved with the invention of the transistor radio in the 1950s and suddenly you could listen to the radio on the go and your faithful tranny was available in far more funky colours, too.

Roberts Radio
The classic Roberts radio
Record players
Something magical was also happening to the record player in the 1950s. Before then playing phonograph records had been seen as a rather poor alternative to listening to the radio. Records were large, heavy, easy to damage – and very expensive. But that changed in the fabulous Fifties when technological advances meant that records not only sounded better, they were cheaper, putting them within the reach of the era’s rock ‘n roll-loving teenagers. 

Cassette players
As exciting as records were, they were soon surpassed when the cassette became king in the 1970s and 1980s. What made audio tapes so attractive was the ability to record your own music onto them. The Top 40, Top of the Pops and compilation mixes for your pals and lovers to remember you by! Then of course there was the Walkman that cemented the tape forever in the mind of 70's kids like me. (I still have my original Sony Walkman).

CD players
Looking so awesome and shiny, it felt like they'd arrived from the future. CDs were the next advancement that music players saw and as much as we loved them our trusty old cassettes were left to gather dust. Billed as the last word in convenience and sound quality, the CD did indeed dominate record sales for more than two decades, until the digital music revolution made their sales plummet. 

Kit Sound Panda Portable Speaker
I have one of these Kit Portable Panda Speakers... never travel without him
iPods and wireless music players 
Downloads now allow music fans to buy music in digital form direct to their iPod and things have gone even further. Thanks to the likes of Spotify (the most popular online streaming service, according to Ofcom) and subscription music services, you don’t even have to own the digital file to listen to your favourite tracks streamed through your wireless music player

Bang Olufsen BeoSound 8 iPod Dock, White
LUST....Bang Olufsen BeoSound 8 iPod Dock
I was a late adopter to CD (I was a poor single parent back then), my first purchase was Lisa Stansfield's Real Love album in 1991 and my tapes have hung around probably a bit longer than most as I still have a cassette player in my Mini! But I was right there with the digital downloads with an original iPod (now long dead). 
Yes the sound's way better but I'm totally nostalgic for the furry sound of tapes. What about you?

This is a sponsored post for John Lewis for which I received payment that I'm going to blow on some new Air Play speakers for my birthday!
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