Archive for the technology Category

The Random Button That Changed The World

Posted in ipod, Mp3, music, randomiser, technology on August 15, 2007 by planetmondo

Who would have thought that one tiny button could have changed the world, the way we listen to, buy and collect music. Who is the anonymous boffin that when they were developing CD players, snapped their fingers and decided (in a Jeff Goldblum voice) “what we need is a randomizer”?

When CD’s were first hyped in the 80’s, all the puff n’ promo was about the shiny new Tonka toy technology which was virtually indestructible. Unlike dusty ol’ vinyl, You could cover CD’s in jam (but why would you want to?) and they would still deliver perfect sound. You could gauge them with 6 inch nails (would you do this to vinyl??) and they could still carry on playing. They should last forever -(they wouldn’t, and definitely not if you looked after them like that.)

When I got my first Sony CD player in 1986 the new digitized sound was ok – It was louder, the cosy hissy clicks had gone, and I didn’t have to get up to turn anything over. But the one thing that totally changed the way I listened to music was the random/shuffle button .

No more mentally cueing up what was coming next on the album. Suddenly everything was non linear and out of context. All my ol’ favourites and not so favourites were randomly popping up like fireworks and going off all over the place. A couple of years laterI got my first multi disc CD player, and was in random mix up meltdown.

But it seems it wasn’t just me that had a buzz for shuffling . Apple achieved global domination and branding, by merging the principal of multi disc CD players, with the random/shuffle button and distilling it into the iPod. Which in turn changed the way people, buy, store and listen to music. Randomizing is so popular that Apple managed to redefine it again with the iPod shuffle. And now Radio stations like Jack FM in the states, that are based around randomizing instead of heavily formatted, playlisted shows are becoming big news. They’re even coming over here, Jack FM is being trialled in Oxford right now.

Whoever it was that came up with the “random” button , should have patented it. They would have made Bill Gates or tetra pack type fortune by now if they had.
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