Self Improvement


The flat-disc record

In the 1890s, the transition to flat-disc records began. The recording was etched onto a disc we today recognise as a record. The main advantage of the disc record was that it could be mass-produced, whereas a phonograph had to be recorded individually.

Discs were first sold in a five-inch version, then seven-inch, then a ten-inch, and finally a 12-inch version. Interest in double-sided records started to rise in 1903, and Edison took the opportunity to make a 1/4-inch disc that could only be played on Edison Disc Phonographs.

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At first, the flat-disc record was made from shellac. Only after WWII, vinyl replaced shellac as it was a lighter and more durable material.

The transition to vinyl happened together with the change from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm, which allowed a larger amount of music to be recorded on a single disc. A 10-inch, 78 rpm disc contained about three minutes of music. Long songs were split across several discs, each contained in a sleeve bound into a book format, leading to the term "record album."

The LP player

A 12-inch vinyl, 33 rpm record could contain about 20 minutes of music on a side. This longer-playing (LP) format began to dominate the market. 45 rpm records became popular after the war, most containing a single song on each side, known as "singles."

Extended-play (EP) 45s were also added, and they contained two songs on each side. From here on, changes were focused on the hardware used to turn the disc.

The RCA tape cartridge

In 1958, the RCA tape cartridge changed the future of home music consumption. The high-quality audio had been encoded onto a magnetic tape medium for home use.

In 1964, the 8-track Lear tape was introduced. Other tape formats were already available in the home market, but the inclusion of 8-track players in many cars led to it becoming the dominant format of the day.

The future of music listening

Many people are looking for an easy listening experience that allows them to consume and not create. That is why many people are looking into "zero-UI" music players, where the player would ideally need no interaction from the listener.

From a broader range of information made available through demographic data, Facebook and Twitter, heart rate, temperature, etc., it would generate highly targeted playlists that would work with the user's taste and context. But the future of music consumption is uncertain at the moment. A move back to complete control is not out of the question.

The digital age: Compact disc
  • It was not until the early 1980s that the first commercial compact discs (CDs) appeared. The format was standardised in 1980.
  • Before the CD, magnetic tape data was read mechanically. The use of a laser to read the data on a disc was a huge leap forward in audio technology and dominated the market into the early 2000s.
  • CD-ROMs (CD-read only memory) debuted in 1985, and further improvements led to the Video CD, Super Video CD, DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray discs.
Apple iPod dominating the market

In 1996, MP3s players found their way into listeners pockets. At first, the rudimentary systems could hold six to twelve songs, but the Apple iPod changed the market in 2001. It held up to 1,000 songs.

iTunes debuted in 2001 with the iPod as the world's best jukebox software. It has been the single largest distributor of music in the world since 2010. iTunes does not use the MP3 format but Advanced Audio coding (AAC) format, and although MP3 is still used, AAC has more industry support.

During WWI (and WWII), the US Congress suspended all amateur radio broadcasts. In 1919, shortly after WWI, 1XE of Medford, Massachusetts, was broadcasting music. Then more music radio stations began to pop up.

But they met with resistance. People thought radio was only supposed to be used for two-way communication. Commercially licensed stations started to appear, and by 1930, 60 % of American families purchased radio receivers. Many stations only started broadcasting music after they had been on the air for a while.

The top 40 stations

In 1922, the first radio advertisement changed the future of music broadcasting. Before that, companies would sponsor musical programs known by names like Champion Spark Plug Hour or King Biscuit Time.

The rise of the top 40 stations in the early 50s influenced how music radio operates to this day. The higher fidelity magnetic recording made it possible to broadcast pre-recorded programs in the 1940s.

The social and personal importance of music

Music is important to people individually and on a societal level. Music is greatly influential to the state of technology. The devices we use to listen to music shape the technological landscape.

But when did earbuds become synonymous with a portable music player, and where did it all start?

The Sony Walkman

In the early 1970s, the compact Phillips cassette tape began to rise to domination of the automobile music market. The small size counted in their favour. When the manufacturers started making smaller, portable tape decks, the cassette's place in music was sure.

The innovation of the Sony Walkman in 1979 was even more important. The small portable stereo tape player made music listening more accessible for personal use as it was no longer tied to large record players.

The story of music consumption: The phonograph

Music has always been an important part of human culture. Until 1877, people could only listen to music when someone was playing, whether in a concert hall or at home.

But Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph revolutionised the consumption of music. Sounds to be recorded were transmitted through a recording stylus, which would make indentations on a phonograph cylinder. A playback stylus could read the recording and play it through a diaphragm and horn.

  • In 1982, an electrical engineering PhD student Karlheinz Brandenburg was challenged to find a way to transmit music over digital phone lines.
  • Advanced technology that could separate sounds into three sections, or layers, enabled Brandenburg and his colleagues to discard obscured sounds without a real loss in quality. This led to the ability to encode files with fewer bitrates.
  • The Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) were tasked to create worldwide standards in audio recording. The standard created included Layers I, II, and III.
The streaming revolution

Pandora pioneered the style of music recommendation service that would become a huge trend in modern music. The idea was of a service that allowed listeners to hear music from thousands of artists without buying any album.

The battle over royalties paid to artists are constant and not limited to Pandora. Despite the drop in album sales and the small earnings of artists, streaming services are doing well.

The invention of Napster shook up the music work. Napster was a simple, free, peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service that focused on MP3 sharing. This free distribution of music was attacked by the music industry and shut down in 2001. Many other P2P file-sharing services sprung up and were also shut down.

P2P music sharing still exists, with BitTorrent one of the most popular formats that are much harder to shut down.

In 1990, Earth Day mobilized 200 million individuals in over 140 countries, catapulting environmental issues on the global stage.

The recycling efforts across the world got a huge boost and paved the way for a UN Earth Summit to happen in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Earth Day Founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom.

As Earth Day completed forty years, it battled new enemies: Climate change deniers and oil lobbyists with deep pockets. Other challenges were a distracted public, shrewd politicians and a divided environmental community.

Yet the collective power of global environmental activists won over these challenges, and established EARTHDAY.ORG, bringing millions of people into the environmental movement.

Earth Day activates over a billion people every year on 22nd April, and is the largest secular observance across the world.

As world leaders are relentlessly valuing greed over the environment, the citizens of the world are rising up to take action for our planet and its inhabitants.

With a new Millenium providing fresh new energy, Earth Day 2000 leveraged global and local individuals, the power of the internet, and over five thousand environmental groups in over 184 countries to reach out to millions.

It sent a clear message to those in power: Citizens from across the world demand accountability towards environmental issues.

Earth Day: Origins
  • Earth Day, the birth of the environmental movement, is about raising public consciousness about the condition of our beloved blue planet.
  • The first Earth Day was celebrated on 22nd April 1970, a time when industrialization was making American corporations consume leaded gas and other harmful pollutants, something which the average American was unaware of.
  • The rising consciousness was a result of a 1962 bestseller ‘Silent Spring’ which shined a light on the decaying planet, the condition of living organisms, and the link between pollution and disease.
Dune: The Origin
  • In the late 50s, Frank Herbert, a freelance writer, was roaming the desert landscapes of Florence, Oregon, researching sand dunes.
  • His classic Dune got rejected by about 20 publishing houses, and soon after getting published by a magazine company, built up a huge fan base in the coming two decades.
  • Fifty years later, it is considered the greatest novel of the science fiction genre.

The story of Dune is set in the far future, with a vast, hostile desert being the hotbed of the action. The beautiful story is filled with treachery, tragedy and an addictive drug everyone wants: Spice.

The writer borrowed heavily from Islamic culture, and created meaty characters, along with the protagonist, Paul, being a man of destiny.

  • The book became the greatest science fiction novels of all time and sold millions of copies.
  • Dune’s official Hollywood debut happened in 1984, but it was a cheesy movie (with Sting in a codpiece) that was ridiculed. The grander, epic-scale movie was planned but never got made.
  • The story of Dune was then repackaged by George Lucas, creating a movie everyone knows about: Star Wars.
  • The book series continued even after Frank Herbert's death in 1986, with 13 more books getting produced apart from his earlier sequel works.

To merely have practical intelligence and skill can run the risk of what Aristotle called "cleverness" or "shrewdness" - the ability to accomplish one's goals regardless of the rightness or consequences of those goals themselves.

Aristotle suggests that having the right character puts one on a much better footing. To know the intention of an action is to know its real aim. To act rightly, we need to know the right ends we aim for, the motivation to want those ends (i.e. moral will), and the means to accomplish them (i.e., character virtues). This is practical wisdom.

One avenue for practical wisdom's application is in system changers. This comes back to Aristotle's original vision for legislators and politicians, whose primary obligation was to structure organisations and their practices to encourage others to learn to act wisely.

Practical wisdom cannot be learned in the narrow sense of learning as reading books or listening to lectures. It is embedded within the actual practices of a given role or vocation and can only be learned through hands-on, lived practice.

Aristotle's Practical Wisdom

The foundation of practical wisdom is derived from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. It deals with the question: How best shall we live?

To live well is to act well. To act well is the ability to do the right thing at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reason. To do that, we need discernment and the will to do so.

For social institutions, like the family, the community, businesses, hospitals, governmental organisations, etc., their true aim must be known to function well.

Unhinged from its larger purpose can lead them astray. For example, politicians that vie for power rather than service, doctors working for money rather than humans, news outlets sensationalising for rating instead of objective reporting, etc.


  1. Having a flexible work schedule
  2. Huge reduction in commuting time
  3. The evolvement of solutions to communication challenges


  1. Deterioration of human connection
  2. Decreased attention span
  3. The expenses and functionality of gadgets within the budget range

With the upsurge of the virtual world, we tend to often worry whether we'll be able to connect to the meeting, gadget malfunction, or if you will be able to integrate the message you want to send through a virtual meeting.

If you're experiencing this, try these:

  1. Have a back up plan ready. If you have a presentation, print out your report or send everyone a copy in advance;
  2. Invest in technology, it will be worth it;
  3. Allow yourself to rest; and
  4. Remember that it's not the end of the world.

Technology + Anxiety = Techziety

  • As time passes by, technology has been evolving continuously and many among the older generation are experiencing anxiety with technology.
  • We have turned to social media apps to connect with our friends and family and due to certain situations, even businesses and learning have all turned online using Zoom, Facebook, and other variants, thus began the Virtual Revolution.

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