For a comprehensive version of the evolution of music players into portable media players via a visual presentation (selected notable ones), visit our gallery. Do note that while comprehensive, the list is non-exhaustive.
Music technology was initiated in the late 1850s when the first attempt to record sound signals succeeded. Thomas Edison later expanded on this technology which gave rise to future innovations. Music recording has gone a long way by means of a rich history from long play discs to mp3 files.
How music players worked was revolutionized by the Sony Walkman which was the first truly self-contained portable music system that together with a pair of lightweight headphones, could be taken out of the house without any hassle. Over time, new studies conducted consequently brought about the first mp3 player in 1998.
Today, however, Sony has lost its foothold in the music industry and has been superseded by Apple who enjoys 73.7% of music player market shares. Nevertheless, many of our grandparents would still be proud owners of precious gramophones or electric record players, while I, personally, still keep many of my old cassette tapes which can no longer be found even on compact discs.
Many of us should still remember and be nostalgic about the squeaky noises cassette players would make the tapes were fast-forwarded. My brother and I used to derive much joy from that button during our childhood days (which was not too long ago). Come on, admit it! You enjoyed it too, didn't you?
So how did today's media players come about?
I told [Kruesi] I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted 'Mary had a little lamb', etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly.
- Thomas Alva Edison on first words spoken on a phonograph
First, we will explore how music players came about when Leon Scott de Martinville invented the first sound transcription device in 1857 which he called the phonautograph. Put simply, this device made use of a barrel as a membrane to inscribe sound onto a visual medium. However, it was not yet able to support audio play backs. Yet, this instigated further exploration into the subject. [You may go direct to media players if you like.]
1877: Thomas Alva Edison created the cylinder phonograph which pioneered the recording and playback of human voice.
1888: German inventor Emile Berliner's gramophone displaced the phonograph by utilizing the then mass produced flat discs such as LP records. This marked the start of a boom in the music industry and is where the Grammy Music Awards originated from.
1925: New technology gave rise to electric record players which dominated the industry as it no longer relied on a manual hand crank.
1965: 8-track tapes were the first attempts to bring music out of households onto the streets via automobiles. They are also known as the 'car audio'.
1978: Sony ushered in an era which completely altered the music industry when they popularised the Walkman 'Soundabout' - a portable audio cassette player capable of Hi-Fi stereo sound.
1983: Again introduced by Sony together with Philips, glossy and shiny CD players, also known as the Discman, eventually replaced cassette players by the end of the 1980s with their superiority in sound quality and ability to skip tracks.
1995: Rewritable CDs were introduced which allowed for mixed CDs, boosting the popularity of Discmans.
1992: With minidiscs, music players finally became more light, compact and pocket-sized.
1998: The dawn of the MPMan was the first flash mp3 player to be released by a Korean company which allowed high quality digital music recording that could be transferred from computers to portable layers.
1999: Compaq introduced the first hard-drive based mp3 player which deviated from the flash drive norm.
2001: Apple joined the market with the iPod Classic comprising of 5/10GB of space and a mechanical scroll wheel.
2002: First attempts to create a media player with by Archos to allow images and video playback but was unsuccessful due to its heavily bug-ridden system.
2002/04: iPod Classic Generation 2 pioneered the use of touch sensitive controls to scroll through playlists. Zen Touch followed.
2004/05: Like Discmans and minidiscs, mp3 players become smaller with the emergence of players such as iPod Mini, Nano and even Shuffle.
2005-07: iPod Video, Zen Vision, iRiver and several other brands of players successfully introduce video playbacks on their players which Archos failed to realise earlier.
2007/08: iPod Touch marks a whole new beginning for the media player industry with never before heard capabilities, legal third party applications and organisation tools all fully controlled by a touch screen.
1. Today in Science History for Thomas Edison quotes. (14th March 2009)
2. fair on Evolution of Music Players (14th March 2009)
3. Random History on the Revolution of Digital Audio (14th March 2009)
4. ABC NEW's History of Music Players (14th March 2009)
5. Joshua Khan's brief overview on history of portable media players. (14th march 2009)