Do you love to listen to music? Some kids like to listen to their favorite tunes when they study. Others think jamming to the latest songs helps long trips in the car pass by more quickly. Athletes know that certain songs can get their blood pumping and ready for the big game.

But have you ever thought about HOW you listen to music? Probably not…after all, everyone knows you just pop in your headphones and plug in your MP3 player full of digital music, right? Would you believe it hasn’t always been done that way?

How people listen to music has changed dramatically over the course of the last 100+ years. All the way back in the late 1800s, the first musical recordings were produced on small wax phonograph cylinders that could hold a whopping two minutes of music.

phonograph cylinders eventually gave way to vinyl and plastic long-playing (“LP”) records. The larger vinyl records could hold almost 45 minutes of music. Of course, you had to be careful with them, since they were easy to scratch and would warp easily if they got too hot.

In the mid-1960s, the 8-track tape became popular. It took off because it was the first format you could easily take along in the car with you. An 8-track tape deck became a popular add-on in many vehicles. Unfortunately, the popularity of 8-track tapes waned and were largely forgotten when cassette tapes shot onto the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Cassettes were hugely popular because they could hold more music — about an hour’s worth — and were smaller and thus even more portable. Another huge benefit was that you could buy blank cassette tapes and easily record your favorite songs from the radio onto them. You could also make your own custom mix tapes of your favorite songs.

Cassettes remained popular for many years until digital music took over with the invention of the compact disc. Compact discs could hold even more music — over 80 minutes — and had the best sound quality of any format yet. They were also very portable and durable.

Although compact discs are still produced today, they’ve largely been replaced by purely digital music downloads. Today, most people download music electronically via the Internet and load it onto digital music players, often called MP3 players after the most popular type of digital music file: the MP3.

digital music files are unparalleled in their quality, portability and storage. For example, a 120 gigabyte MP3 player can fit in the palm of your hand and hold over 280 hours of music! To get that much music in any other format, you’d have to carry around over 2,000 compact discs, almost 3,000 cassette tapes, nearly 4,000 8-track tapes and over 28,000 vinyl records!

Given all the changes that have taken place in music formats over the years, it can be fun to WONDER what the next 10 years will bring. What do you think? In another 10 years, how will you be listening to your favorite music? Will you still be carrying around an MP3 player? Or will there be something even smaller and more fantastic ahead?

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