Three generations

In 1877 Edison demonstrated his phonograph. This was the beginning of reproducing music.

If one look at the history of recording music there are 3 generations.
The icon of the first generation is of course the gramophone. A wind-up motor and a needle coupled to a diaphragm and amplified by a horn. No electrical parts!


In the eighties the CD hit the market. The music is stored in a digital format. One might also argue that it is a turntable with the needle replaced by a laser. You need a platter and what’s on it you can find on a leaflet, just like good old vinyl. So high tech used in the traditional way.


The third generation is computer audio.
You download the music from the internet. You browse your collection on your computer and of course, play it on a computer. The whole process of buying, storage, selecting and playing is fully digital.

You need some sort of computer to listen to the music, MP3 player, Pc, Mac, streaming audio player are some examples.





1841  Augustin-Louis Cauchy is the first to propose sampling theory.
1855 Leon Scott de Martinville invents the phonoautograph, a machine that records vibrations on a carbonized paper cylinder.
1876 Alexander Graham Bell introduces the telephone.
1877 Thomas Edison invents the phonograph while trying to invent a device that would record and repeat telegraphic signals (digital).
1887 Emily Berliner replaces Edison's wax cylinder phonograph with the audio disc.
1915 78 R.P.M records introduced.

Harry Nyquist presents sampling theory to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

33 1/3 Records Introduced.

1937 A. Reeves invents pulse code modulation (PCM), a technology used by computers and CDs for audio at present.
H. Aiken from Harvard approaches IBM and proposes a electrical computing machine.
1943 The U.S. Army turns on the first computer (ENIAC) at the University of Pennsylvania.
1947 Magnetic Tape Recorders hit the U.S. market.
1948 John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain’s bipolar junction transistor, which made compact digital circuitry a reality.
1949 45 rpm records hit the U.S. market, thanks to microgroove technology.

C.H. Townes and A.L. Shawlow invent the laser.

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce co-invent the integrated circuit.

Integrated circuits are used in almost all electronic equipment in use today and have revolutionized the world of electronics.

Stereo LPs produced


I.S. Reed and G. Solomon publish information on multiple error correction codes. These come to be known as the "Reed-Solomon" Codes.

Reed–Solomon codes are used in a wide variety of applications, like CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, in data transmission technologies such as DSL & WiMAX, in broadcast systems such as DVB and ATSC,

1967 Japan’s NHK Technical Research Institute publicly demonstrates a digital audio recorder running 12bit resolution and a 30kHz sampling rate.

Physicist Klaas Compaan uses a glass disc to store black and white holographic images using frequency modulation at Philips Laboratories.


The global Internet's progenitor was the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) of the U.S. Department of Defense.

ARPANET become operational in 1969, connecting 4 computers.

If you download some copyright protected material, don't forget to say thanks to the Pentagon.


Microprocessor produced by Intel Digital.

Delay line used by BBC's studios (first digital audio device).

1973 BBC and other broadcast companies start installing digital recorders for master recordings.
1977 Sony, Mitsubishi and Hitachi demonstrate digital audio discs.
1980 Sony signs up to Philips ‘Red Book’ laser disc; Compact Disc is born.

The IBM PC's debut.

Cycle Time: - Main storage - 410 nanoseconds
- Access - 250 nanoseconds
Memory: - 40K built-in read only memory (ROM)
- 16K to 256K user memory
Number of diskettes: - Up to two 5¼" diskette drives
Storage capacity: - 160 kilobytes per diskette



Compact Disc Technology is introduced in the United States.


Sony launches Digital Audio Tape (DAT) with 16bit, 48kHz digital PCM system.

The Fraunhofer Institut in Germany begins research code-named EUREKA project EU147, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB).

1988 First sound cards for PCs
1989 Fraunhofer received a German patent for MP3.

Multimedia Programming Interface and Data Specifications 1.0 by Microsoft and IBM. Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF), a tagged file structure including WAV

1992 Fraunhofer's coding algorithm was integrated into MPEG-1.
1994 MP3 (MPEG 1 Audio Layer 3) finalized. A compressed, lossy 16/44.1 format using approximately 20% of the space of a WAV file, it ushers in online music distribution.

RealAudio, an audio streaming technology, lets the Net hear in near real-time.

Radio HK, the first commercial 24 hr., Internet-only radio station starts broadcasting


Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) launched, offering high resolution digital sound using the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) system

DVD-A introduced.

Internet music-swapping site "Napster".

Slim Devices founded. One of the pioneers of streaming audio.

2001 iPod launched.
2008 Spotify - streaming audio service. Spotify Free (160kbit/s) and Spotify Premium $11.99/month (up to 320kbit/s)
2009 Ayre QB9

The first “audiophile” USB DAC with asynchronous USB.

2014 Tidal - lossless streaming service (FLAC) $19.99 month


From Cave Paintings to the Internet

History of the CD - timeline 1841-1999

The Dawn of Commercial Digital Recording - Thomas Fine