Millions of Songs on your iPod Touch?
Not mine. In fact I shuffle parts of my library very regularly so that my iPod Touch is never more than 1/3 full. Still, that is probably only 1000 songs at a maximum. However, if technology will have its way (and it will), the next next next next iPod could carry millions of songs. How will this be accomplished? Well, let me remind you about a great feature called digital compression. It has been around since the dawn of mathematics, but only in the last 30 or so years, been applied to music. In fact, the world’s de facto audio standard, the Redbook CD is compressed at 16 bits and 44.1 kHz.
When it finally caught on, several companies noticed that the format was not well suited to portable use. It jumped and the CD’s themselves could scratch, ruining a costly investment. Before long, factions within the digital audio industry saw the need for more robust media. The highly compressed Digital Compact Cassette (manufactured by Philips and Matsushita) and MiniDisc (manufactured by Sony) formats were born. The DCC fell quickly into obscurity while the MD boomed in Europe and Asia and even today retains a vocal following though official manufacture support has been dropped.
Both early systems, trying to one-up the other held very protectively onto their technology and eventually fell into obscurity. One format that did not rely on physical media survived:the now ubiquitous Mpeg-1 Audio layer 3 (or MP3 for short) that plays in our media devices. Of course, many other formats exist, but the MP3 is by far the most widely supported. Its claim to fame is good sound even at very low bitrates. For instance, an original 50 megabyte song can be somewhat faithfully reproduced within 5 megabytes.
However, a new technology may allow for millions of songs to fit in the same storage space housed in the iPod. Imagine a song fitting in only a couple of kilobytes of memory. Of course, such technology does not use compression techniques such as we use now. In fact, I should hesitate to call it something so vulgar. Rather, a computer is given all of the variables it needs to reproduce both the instrument and the environment in which it will play. In effect, rather than reproducing the sound of a recording, the computer would produce the recording.
Currently, the technology can only reproduce one instrument at a time, but as time progresses, it could with enough programming, become an excellent method for talented artists to harness the fidelity of realistic instruments sounds without need for those instruments. It also, could with enough processing power, put an end to the need for more and more storage space as entire albums could from start to finish be digitally created and stored as a series of variables rather than as digital copies.
It is far too early to discuss the merits of music produced by real humans rather than real machines, but apropos the fear a human harbours of being replaced by the ‘robot’, certainly whets the appetite for a good discussion.[via analogik]