Revolutions in sound recording
Revolutions in sound recording

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Revolutions in sound recording

3 Sounds from magnets

3.1 Introduction

I've an opera here you shan't escape – on miles and miles of recording tape.

Flanders, M. and Swann, D. (1977) ‘The Song of Reproduction’ from The Songs of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, London, Elm Tree Books and St George's Press, p. 99

Sounds, pictures, measurement data, financial statistics, personal details, etc. can all be recorded and stored on magnetic media, i.e. materials that are able to be magnetised to store information for future retrieval.

Activity 19

Construct a table of all the different types of magnetic media you think you may have used and what you kept on each type of media. Were you able to put any of the media to more than just one use, i.e. store different sorts of things on that media? Do not worry at this time if you are uncertain as to what I mean by magnetic media.



The media types I thought of are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Various types and uses of magnetic media
Magnetic media type Use
Audio reel-to-reel tape Music and speech
Audio cassette tape Speech, music and computer data
VHS tape Videos for television and digital audio
DV (digital video) tape Home movies
Hard disk* Computer data, music, speech, videos
Floppy disk Computer data and music
* There are two forms of the spelling. My convention will be that discs originally designed for music storage will be spelt with a ‘c’, whereas disks used for computer storage will be spelt with a ‘k’.

Did you notice from my list in the above activity that most magnetic media can have more than one use? I doubt that the designers of the compact cassette ever imagined it being used to store computer data (as was the case in the 1980s when cassettes were used with home computers). Magnetic media are incredibly versatile for recording and storing information due to their convenience of use, low cost, reusability and reliability, although not all these qualities are necessarily exploited. For example, audio and video recordings are often made only once and kept indefinitely, whereas data on a computer disk may be changed by the minute, as with the word-processor data file I am updating as I write (and rewrite!) this section of the unit.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus