8 milestones in the technology of recorded sound (video)

Video Link. Another brilliant musical experiment from Joe Sabia and the CDZA project.


  1. This is probably overly-nitpicking, but the video gives dates for when things became commonly used, not when they were invented. I wouldn’t show this to students.

    1.  Interesting. I was about to point out that he was giving dates when things were developed and talked as if they were commonplace at the same time. Stereo may have been developed in 1933, but stereo recording didn’t become commonplace until the 50’s. And cassettes didn’t become commonplace until the late 60’s/early 70’s.

      I also want to quibble about the selection these “milestones”. Cassettes really weren’t that big of a milestone, and really were just a development of the real milestone…magnetic tape recording…back in the 30’s.

      The big development that he completely ignored was electronic sound recording. Up until this was developed, recordings were all done acoustically, using large horns to capture the sound and direct it straight onto the disc.

      1. I’ll quibble your quibble. Cassettes were a huge milestone, not so much for the medium (tape), but for the portability they introduced (the shell). Univacs and mainframes introduced computing, but it took the advent of desktop PCs and laptops to give the masses entry to a digital domain. Similarly, cassettes brought tape recording/playback to a billion more people than open-reel ever could. Cassette game-changers:

        Audio letters. Soldiers, sweethearts, offshore workers, fringe groups… people mailed cassettes all around the world to spread their messages. Also, books on tape, ed lectures, training materials.

        Personal, portable music mixes. With a home recording deck and a Walkman or car deck, people could transfer their fragile LPs or trouble-prone 8-tracks (or their high-quality 10″ 15-ips open reels ;-) to a rugged format whose content was totally personalized. No record label was ever going to release the Byrds’ Eight Miles High (Live) backed by EW&F’s September, but now anyone could do it.

        Business-y/everyday/geek uses: cassettes and microcassettes freed businesses from proprietary, finicky dictation system contracts; gave businesses and householders practical, affordable tools to time-shift/screen their phone calls. Cassettes were the forerunners of floppy disks; you were cookin’ with gas when your 6502-based home computer could load programs and data from a cassette.

        In the realm of stuff “that he completely ignored” I’d add: the transistor/solid state electronics. While not mandatory for recording, transistors are key to today’s playback systems, and play a huge role in mixing. (I go back to the days when a band’s PA system was 24-volt DC Altec amps and clunky, heavy, finicky 4-channel mixers that you were scared to move. Back then, running out of tubes was like running out of batteries today ;-)

  2. I’d add that it wasn’t a very good explaination of what Auto Tune was invented for, which is to provide undetectible pitch correction.  Used for it’s intended purpose, you shouldn’t be able to detect it’s use.  It was only after people playing around with the settings discovered that you could make it sound like a vocoder effect that it became known for being that annoying “robot thing”.

  3. Certainly the transition from acoustic recording/playback to electronic recording/playback and the development of audio tape warranted a higher mention than Autotune.

  4. Surprised the mp3 wasn’t #8. I realize it’s covered in under digital music milestone, but surely, computer sound files detached from a fixed physical medium is a pretty significant milestone on its own.

  5. Jesus that was lame. Check out the book “Perfecting Sound Forever,” for an incredibly intelligent and compelling history of recorded music. 

  6. No comment on compression and use of it by FM radio in the late 80’s and 90’s? the biggest disaster for recording artists today?  Glad he isn’t doing any mastering on the artists I enjoy. 

Comments are closed.