Chapter 11. Music and Audio

The Internet can deliver a lot of things right to your desktop, from your bank statement to the menu of a restaurant 3,000 miles away. But with the right software, it can also deliver Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the audio book version of every single Harry Potter novel, and that episode of All Things Considered you missed earlier this week when you were at the doctor.

If you have a high-speed broadband connection, you can turn the Internet into the world’s biggest jukebox, listening room, and radio station. This chapter tells you how to get an earful no matter what your musical taste.

Digital Audio and the Internet

Recorded music has appeared in a variety of shapes and sizes over the decades, including fragile discs spinning at 78 rpm, vinyl records in colorful sleeves that were artworks in themselves, pocket-size cassette tapes, and CDs that gave all those predecessors a hard shove into the Bargain Bin of History. But no music format ever exploded into the public consciousness as quickly and widely as the bits of computer code known as MP3 files.

Using the MP3 format makes it possible to compress the digital files that represent songs into files small enough to be uploaded, downloaded, emailed, and stored on hard drives by the hundreds. That feat of smallness set off a sonic boom in the late 1990s that continues to reverberate across the music world.

Of course, the other big technology that made noise in the 1990s was the ...

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