Death of the Disk?

Picture the scene, sunshine breaks through the grey summer's day, I'm walking my dog, and pass a house with a picturesque garden, a huge cherry blossom and wild blooming roses. Something catches my eye, a beautiful rainbow of colours, I followed the arc to see where it is coming from. Bewildered and slightly aghast, I see them, hanging from the branches, my childhood heroes.

CDs (or Compact Discs to give them their correct full title) were a breakthrough in music and data storage when they were launched in October 1982. They can hold up to 80 minutes of music with the ease of skipping tracks and playing back from the beginning without even needing to remove them from the player.

The launching of recordable CDs meant people could record and copy music at home without any concerns over quality or whether the temperamental cassette player would chew the tape up. CDs are still susceptible to damage. Dust particles can often be removed with a clean and small scratches can be polished out.

The number of tracks held on the disc vary depending on how the files are encrypted. Approximately 138 songs can be burned to a CDs using MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3).

Using MP3, which is a digital music format, a CD track can be reduced to approximately a tenth of its original size whist maintaining an almost perfect quality for sound files. As it can be compressed into a much smaller file and therefore much quicker to download, it is very popular on the internet.

With the advances in technology, and our ever growing need for speed, there are numerous internet sites that you can download music from, either as MP3s or iTunes. Most of the big names have downloads available directly from their websites, for example, Apple, Amazon, Tesco, HMV and Play.

The revolution of the world wide web and the increase in download speeds have helped this phenomenon develop further. MP3 files began to appear on the internet from 1994 onwards. Many people download music and transfer to a MP3 player and also upload their existing music collection to convert. However some people just listen to them on their personal computers or laptops. With MP3 technology becoming standard in many car stereo systems, people also burn CDs to listen to elsewhere.

Mobile phone manufacturers have developed music downloads further, with some allowing customers to purchase and download directly from and to their mobile phones.

Websites like My Space are allowing new and unsigned musicians to get their music out to a wider audience. They can sell downloads through their blogs and sites.

The main controversy with MP3 is that because of the size and speed delivery available of the downloads, they are easily transferred on the internet. Which had led to an increase in music piracy, especially through file sharing peer-to-peer programs, such as Napster launched 1998 (and closed after a legal battle). Numerous sites have been sued for offering free MP3 downloads, infringing copyright. Record  companies are trying to increase the difficulty for people to upload store bought CDs to their P.C.'s by adding special software, known as Digital Rights Management. They argue this is to prevent illegal file sharing. However, this has also created its own problems, such as people not been able to play their downloaded purchases on separate devices.

DVDs and Blu-rays have since been unveiled using the same technology, allowing films to be recorded in the same quality. Most DVD and blu-ray players feature a CD player, so will this allow them a fighting chance? Is there hope for these pieces of plastic to survive?

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