FTLComm - Tisdale - January 12, 2001
This is the last day of the MacWorld convention in San Francisco and as with other years Apple Computers have used this forum to launch new products and in some cases whole new concepts. This year Steven Jobs CEO of Apple declared that a new life style was evolving based on the personal computer. Though I am certain most of us realised that it needed to be said by someone like Jobs for us to understand the far reaching ramifications of these changes.

Last year at the same conference Jobs introduced a dramatic capability for a personal computer. With a jacked up iMac and a new piece of easy to use software (iMovie) Jobs showed how with these two tools and digital camcorder a person could produce completely edited and professional looking home movies. Apple Computers bet that this was going to take their invention to new heights in the market place and they were wrong.

Instead of the consumer grabbing on to video as the means of personal expression something entirely unexpected is and has been taking place for this past year. A revolution has taken place, and like most movements we usually only become aware of their impact after it has happened. Being involved in the computer industry and having had the capability to turn out custom CDs for the past four years blinds one to the realisation that the real world of consumers is well behind the curve and they have just discovered what we were using four years ago. The difference of course is that we, the computer geeks have little or no real impact on things because of our small numbers. But when the public at large launches into something like this the possibilities are remarkable.

Several times we have mentioned the remarkable technology developed to compress the data that goes into a motion picture called MPEG. This technology has allowed the development of direct satellite television broadcast and the exponential development of the DVD. One of the versions of MPEG is called MP3 and it was discovered that this was an ideal format to compress and digitise audio. We have mentioned this development a couple of times in Ensign and there has been considerable media interest in the development because of the pressure it appears to be exerting on the recording industry.

But just a moment we need to reflect on the non-technological things that we are seeing in our society. I have been somewhat disturbed by the really appallingly bad level we have in popular music since the continued rise of so-called "rap" music, which is in affect a type of poetry recited to a beat and only in a very wide definition meet the criteria of what could be referred to as music. As this slum pop culture spreads we have seen the remarkable rise in popularity of "country" music, but country music that we identify with Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. Ordinary young and old people are repelled by the slum stuff and few pop music stations remain active in Canada as most have moved to a "country" format. This shift in taste is in part a cultural swing but also a technological one that has come about because of the extreme diversity that can now exist in our culture.

About five months ago computer manufacturers realised that enormous popularity of Napster and the dissemination of music over the Internet in the form of MP3 files. Customers began demanding the inclusion of CDR burners in their new computers and now almost all computers coming off the line are so equipped. Apple announced Tuesday that it was going to follow suit and not only would it include CDR burners in its tower computers but it would have a DVD burner in its top line. To make this happen Apple released free software on its site yesterday that lets you collect the MP3 files, play them and save them to your CDR burner at the click of a button. Apple calls this new software iTunes.
This all coincided with the installation of ADSL in our house on Wednesday and I have been caught in the downdraft of technology ever since. Last night after I got the network working on the Internet (five computers up and running all at once) I took a look at iTunes and downloaded both it and Napster.

Now I was aware of Napster, I had looked at it last winter and thought it was cool but with convention 49K modem connection it just wasn't practical. But that has changed.

So I went shopping, and I got my music, Maria Muldar with Midnight at the Oasis, Les Paul and Mary Ford with How High the Moon, Doris Day and Sentimental Journey, Bing Crosby's Don't Fence Me In, and well its a long list. I was positively elated at being able to summon the music I love and have enjoyed and to be able to do so with such ease. At four this morning I decided it was time to go to bed but the music, wow the music and not a single rap among them. I truly love Al Jolson.
So now with this great collection, that I can add to and modify, organise and categorise I can in a few minutes make these computer files into a CD and from that to a tape for the van.

What we are talking about is personal music, that you tailor make yourself and the fit is 100%.

Several manufacturers have developed solid state memory chip devices that let you move the MP3 files from your computer to a pocket device and of course that will be more of this. The quality, the variety and durability will continue to improve and this trend looks like a very extensive fad.

Making a CD without iTunes takes less then twenty minutes and with today's large hard drives assembling and even customised the material is dead simple.