The way I listen to music has come full circle.

When I first started listening to music, it was on the radio. I had a yellow Casio hand-held radio. This “hand-held” radio is bigger than my smart phone is today. I didn’t know much about radio stations, but I knew how to scan around with the manual knob until I found music I liked.This got me by, since it was portable and I didn’t really know music.

Next came the cassette and the introduction to on-demand music. With a cassette, I can pick out what I was going to listen to. I could hear the same song over and over if I wanted to (and I often did). The cassette also taught me the mix-tape. The favorite gift of every high school student in the 90s. It was a big deal at the time (a prelude to the personal play-list). You could combine songs from different sources into a single cassette with ease.

Most my music moved to CDs next. However I was still making mist-tapes on cassette. The CD burner was years behind, and digital music software was even farther behind. The CD and the cassette were different technology for the same ends. The CD simply improved the ease of use, but no innovation to listening to music.

Next was the revolution, “A thousand songs in your pocket.” I got an iPod. Spent my summer savings on a 15gb model. I was an early adopter. I saw it as one of the greatest electronic I’d every bought (part of the reason I still use Apple products today). It changed how we listened to music. It brought the play-list to replace the mix-tape. It made mp3’s the preferred music medium. I had my entire music collection a click away no matter where I was. That was an innovation.

The iPod transformed into the iPhone, but the concept stayed the same. I carried my music collection with me on a single device in my pocket. I had play-lists and genres. It started with mix-tapes, but was driven home by play-lists. I didn’t want albums or artist’s collections, I wanted individual songs. Listening to an album in its entirety was a rarity.

Which lead me to my listening habits today, Internet radio. With the iPod I was listening to single songs and jumping around to different artists and genres. I stopped really caring what would play next, I knew it would be a song I kind of liked (after all I put it in there). Internet radio has advanced quite a bit. The services (Pandora, Slacker, LastFM) can learn your listening habits.  I was listening the same way I was on my iPod, except I didn’t have to mange the playlists and I didn’t have to purchase new music. Add in that I now have a smart phone and can carry my internet radio device everywhere with me, and I’m back to being a radio listener. The adverts don’t seem to bother me. It’s an even trade-off.

So my listening style has come full circle. Instead of radio waves, my music is usually traveling from a cell tower to my phone, but the concepts are the same.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I shifted again to an iPod type system in the not so distant future. It all seems to be somewhat cyclical.

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