Music is another highly popular media entertainment. The advent of sound recording at the end of the 19th century ushered in the era of analog recordings, first on vinyl records and later on audio tape in the form of 8-tracks and later, cassettes. Starting in the 1980s, music started to be distributed in a digital format on CD-ROMs. The new format changed everything as digital music could be copied easily and without loss of fidelity. In the 1990s, it became possible to easily compress large digital music files using a technology called MP3, and for the first time, it became practical to share music over the newly invented Internet. An explosion of music MP3 file sharing occurred, first culminating in the Napster file sharing website between 1999 and 2001. The problem was that all this music file sharing was illegal. The record companies sued, and Napster was closed down. However, the damage was done. An entire generation of children had learned that unlimited file sharing was possible and easy. These children were not deterred by the questionable legal status of their activities, and many new forums for file sharing, including the popular peer to peer BitTorrent technology, were developed and continue to operate today.
Modern mobile or cell phones are more than simple telephones. Instead, they are multimedia communications devices. In addition to making telephone calls, today's phones enable SMS text and MMS photo messaging (the sending of email-like text messages and photographs from phone to phone). Many phones feature digital cameras, programmable ring-tones, Internet and email access, and music and video players as well. The very latest "smart" phones (such as Apple's iPhone even feature GPS (global satellite-based positioning) which enables the phone to know and broadcast its location on the earth, as well as downloadable software applications that transform the phone into a multipurpose device. With the right service plan and smart phone, it is possible to watch television shows on the phone, browse the Internet, or to use the phone as a portable GPS navigation unit.
Personal computers and modern smart phones are general rather than single-purpose devices. They can be programmed to perform a wide variety of tasks. The software that provides the computer with instructions for how to perform these various tasks is itself a form of media. As children like to play computer games, a young person's computer or phone is likely to contain various game software titles. However, there are many other categories of software program that are available. For instance, young people may use software to edit and display digital pictures they have taken with their telephone or digital camera. They may also compose or edit digital video and sound recordings, or create visual art in the manner of paintings. Software programs are available to teach youth how to type; to provide help with homework; to teach a specific foreign language, or to guide users in the creation of a family tree, to provide just a few examples.
The Internet (and other connected technologies)
The Internet is a communications technology based on millions of interconnected computers capable of sharing data instantly. The Internet allows two kinds of communication to occur. Two-way communications are possible in both synchronized and asynchronous forms, allowing the Internet to replace traditional telephone technologies, which involve two-way synchronized communications, and bulletin boards, which involve two-way asynchronous communications. One-way communications such as television or radio broadcasts are also possible. All Internet communications, whether voice, video, or photograph, take place using a common digital transmission format. Although the network is world-wide in scale, the playing field is level enough so that individual people without much wealth or education can create and publish web pages for themselves, which are accessible around the world.
Most people know the internet through its most ubiquitous product, the website and the World Wide Web; the Internet protocol upon which all websites sit. Early websites were largely textual in nature with a few photographs for illustration purposes. Over time, websites have evolved into platforms capable of organizing and displaying all other forms of media we have discussed, including books and magazines, movies and television shows, telephone and textual communications, audio recordings and even software. Today, it is possible to watch television on Hulu, or a friend's home movie on YouTube; have a video conference via the Skype service, check in with your boss regarding the latest sales figures on SalesForce, read a book online at Scribd and interact with friends in a wholly new way via Social Media websites such as Facebook and Twitter which have no pre-Internet antecedents.