The MP3: The Container Technology That Gave Way to More Container Technologies

The MP3 was revolutionary because it transformed not only how audio recordings themselves sounded to the listener, but also transformed the medium through which audio recordings were heard. The ability of the MP3 to serve as what Sterne calls “a container for containers” is what allowed it to be so accessible to users (828). It’s small size as a file gave way to new storage devices, or MP3 players, which transformed where and how people listened to music. The image below shows the first MP3 player to be developed.


Most familiar to me and my childhood was the evolution of Apple’s iPod. The first one I owned happened to be the blue iPod Nano (shown below), and when I lost it I remember feeling like my world came crashing down. The ease through which it made music accessible was amazing to me. I had every single one of my favorite songs on there. Suddenly, hour long train rides became much more manageable.



The ease through which MP3’s were able to be shared also seemed to give way to a whole world of music piracy. I remember the hype around Limewire and Frostwire, and the ease through which files could be downloaded, transferred in to iTunes or your MP3 players folder on your computer, and listened to on the way to school. My sister’s library seemed to be never-ending. While it is said that MP3 file formats dimish sound quality, I believe that the prioritization of quality was pushed aside by many in exchange for convenience and ease of access. I can’t imagine having to walk around today with a CD player to listen to my favorite songs.