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Timeline of audio formats (wikipedia.org)
45 points by kozak on Aug 17, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments

I don't know why this popped up on the front page of HN today, but for anyone who enjoys the history of audio recordings, I highly recommend checking out UCSB's cylinder preservation and digitization project:


And the Great 78 Project is preserving 78 RPM records. http://great78.archive.org/ There are over 100,000 recordings available to stream online now. https://archive.org/details/78rpm (This collection also includes the Cylinder Archive for some reason.) The ones from George Blood are ripped 4 times at once with four tone arms with different needles, then each of the four gets equalized by a sound engineer and one is picked as the best. All 8 copies are uploaded to the Internet Archive. http://great78.archive.org/preservation/

I can't help but think of one of my favourite moments of televised schadenfreude when audio cylinders get mentioned.


> An audio format is a medium for sound recording and reproduction.

I expected stuff like AIFF, RIFF, WAV, and MP3 - interesting that that's the exact same term (non-native speaker here)

In German we have the word Tonträger [0] which doesn't seem to map to any direct translation on Wikipedia, I know those categories are sometimes diverging between the languages.

[0]: https://dict.leo.org/englisch-deutsch/tontr%C3%A4ger

> Tonträger

Closest word in English is phonorecord, it's not really used by the general population.

Did I miss something or should this be near the beginning in 1898 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_recording

It's there but it's really easy to miss because it doesn't have a picture. I skimmed right past it on my first read!

That was a really interesting article, especially this part: "In 1949 at Fuld Hall in Rutgers University, Paul Braverman made a 75-minute recording of a Woody Guthrie concert using a wire recorder. The recording only came to light in 2001, and appears to be the only surviving live recording of Woody Guthrie; it was restored over several years and released on CD in 2007. The CD, The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949, subsequently won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album."

Great pick up!!

All of this innovation and iteration at breakneck speed... and then nothing in ten years since the introduction of microSD. I imagine a combination of everything going cloud based and Wikipedia authors losing interest.

Yeah, they could have tracked the arguably fascinating series of digital formats, from P2P low bitrate mp3, lossless WAV, FLAC, M4A and whatever the big streaming players are using these days. Not to mention the wild and wooly world of wireless encoding via Bluetooth and others.

If you have the knowledge, you could add it. It's likely not disinterest, but lack of insight.

A related topic, for which I'd like to see a compilation, is an encyclopedia of voice coding formats. Developed mostly for and by telephone companies, there have been numerous methods of encoding and compressing human speech for transmission, security, or storage. There is a Wikipedia page on the topic [1], but the subject is deep and the list is longer than Wikipeida can cover.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocoder

Here I always recommend MP3: The Meaning of a Format by Jonathan Sterne. Fascinating read on how MP3 shaped music for a generation.

Awesome list! A large bunch of the physical formats have been discussed by techmoan's channel on youtube.

What about music boxes? Those go back farther and were a format of music. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_box

I would call many of these "music formats" rather than audio formats. Those punch cards and MIDI etc. don't actually represent audio at all. Even a deaf person could read and appreciate those.

Many of these formats didn't have enough bandwidth to support music when introduced. Most cassette formats were introduced specifically for dictation:

> The compact cassette technology was originally designed for dictation machines, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant the Stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel tape recording in most non-professional applications.


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