HWM (Singapore) - - ED'S NOTE -

As we pre­pared this is­sue of HWM, I re­al­ized that I’ve gone through two ma­jor evo­lu­tion­ary mile­stones in mu­sic. The first was the move from ana­log to dig­i­tal. My first ex­po­sure was through my par­ent’s vinyl col­lec­tion. As a teen, I dab­bled in cas­settes, cre­at­ing mix­tapes through se­rial record­ing. The dig­i­tal era came in the form of CDs; then MP3 play­ers. Those were the days of rip­ping, burn­ing, en­cod­ing and transcod­ing; the days of the file for­mat wars. While MP3 was main­stream then, there were many other for­mats vy­ing for at­ten­tion. I re­mem­ber hav­ing at least a dozen copies of the same songs be­cause it was a never-end­ing ex­per­i­ment to find the for­mat and bi­trate that for the best qual­ity to stor­age ra­tio.

The sec­ond and more re­cent devel­op­ment was the tran­si­tion from phys­i­cal stor­age to cloud stor­age. Be­sides a a few keep­sake CDs, my home has un­der­gone a purge of me­dia, discs and older (ob­so­lete) HDDs col­lected over the years. Phys­i­cal me­dia has be­come dis­pos­able me­dia; ev­ery­thing is now stored on the cloud and any new pur­chase is dig­i­tal. My ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with file for­mats turned into an ex­per­i­ment to find the ideal cloud. Do I just need an on­line backup for my ex­ist­ing files, such as Drop­box, or do I want to con­vert to a li­brary ser­vice like Google Play Mu­sic or iTunes Match?

Both op­tions in­volve some de­gree of tech­ni­cal know-how, and de­pend­ing on how dili­gent you were main­tain­ing your files, cat­a­loging and upload­ing ev­ery­thing to the cloud can turn out to be quite the chore.

There is how­ever, an off­shoot devel­op­ment in the form of cloud stream­ing. In­stead of man­ag­ing one’s own col­lec­tion, a stream­ing ser­vice en­ables every­one to ac­cess a com­mon cat­a­log. You can draw a par­al­lel be­tween the pop­u­lar­ity of ser­vices like Spo­tify and Deezer to ana­log ra­dio, where one fo­cuses on lis­ten­ing to and dis­cov­er­ing mu­sic, in­stead of ob­sess­ing over tech­ni­cal de­tails.

I’d like to think of as tech­nol­ogy com­ing full cir­cle, mak­ing life eas­ier in­stead of adding more com­plex­ity and re­turn­ing to the root of what it was meant to im­prove.

Zachary Chan


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