Music online

Music keeps getting lighter -- literally. Twenty years ago, helping a musically inclined friend move meant wrestling with vinyl albums stacked in milk crates. Ten years ago, those same boxes labelled "Music" contained compact discs in plastic jewelboxes -- and weighed half as much. And in five years? Your friend may hand you a hard drive and say "Take this out to the car and don't drop it."

Over the years, advances in computer technology have changed popular culture. A wave of computer games drew kids and adults to their home PCs. Computer-generated special effects revolutionised filmmaking. Now it's the recording industry's turn to face an assault. MP3 is altering the way we consume music -- changing how artists release their work and how record companies sell it. MP3 may not prevail over other compressed audio formats in the long run, but it has shaken the music world to its foundations.

As the music industry keeps mutating at warp speed, we'll help you figure it out. Wonder which portable player has the features you need? We'll tell you. Want to compress your CDs into small files? We know how. Curious about the way encoding works? Read on. Looking for the best sources for online music? We've got maps. Nobody knows just when you'll be able to keep your entire music collection on a hard drive, but that moment is rapidly approaching.

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