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Technological Change: The Challenge to the Audio and Music Industries

By: Dr. John Strawn
AES Fellow
S Systems, Inc.
Tel: (415) 927-8856
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When we currently think of high technology in the audio and music industries, we think of digital (electronic) technology. But this digital technology has matured only in the past few decades. What are some new technologies that might supplant digital technology? More importantly, to what extent will our industry and Society take a leading role in how those new technologies develop?


In public talks about audio, one often sees a timeline in which "major changes in the audio industry" are said to occur every 10, 25, or perhaps 50 years. Rather than searching for periodicity in a one- or two-dimensional timeline, in this article it will be more helpful to start out by enumerating some of the multidimensional axes along wchich change occurs. One axis would be the number of channels of audio: mono, stereo, (aborted) consumer quad, and now multichannel (possibly encoded). Another would be the axis of storage technologies, starting with direct mechanical recording (Edison), moving to analog magnetic recording on tape (allowing cutting and splicing) through digital magnetic tape to the point of the digital CD and the DVD. Another axis represents the methods for transmission: electrical (Bell and Morse), electronic, and digital. Yet another axis would be consumer, semi-pro, and pro. There are many other axes. On any given axis, change is often motivated not by developments . . . Continue to article and footnotes (PDF)

Dr. John Strawn has over 30 years experience in software development (assembly language, Fortran, C, C++). He is experienced in digital signal processing, especially for audio and music, including audio compression such as MP-3. As an employee and as an independent consultant he has worked on teams in large and small companies on cutting-edge technology.

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