It Was 30 Years Ago Today....
It was 30 years ago today that I walked into the Bristol Sound and Vision show, wearing for the first time a badge proclaiming that I was a reviewer. I had recently moved from working for a London audio retailer to writing for a then-new magazine. I've only missed two Bristol Shows since that day in 1991; one a few years ago due to illness, and this one that 'The Illness' cancelled. Hopefully, by the time we go back to the Bristol Show once again in 2022, the Marriott team will have cleaned the damn building and fixed the damn elevators!
Looking back over 30 years of audio is a fascinating venture. Back then, I didn't even have a mobile phone; today, they form a core to many people's music listening. That idea wouldn't have just been alien, there would be a bad sci-fi movie about such a future.
Many things haven't changed in the intervening period. LP has come and gone and come back. CD was the big new thing, but while it has waned in popularity is still a part of the audio world, cassette was strong 30 years ago, and all but vanished, but returned to the market just as the inventor of the format – Dutch engineer Lou Ottens – died age 94. I don't think anyone would have predicted the rise in streaming or even downloaded music in 1991, because the Internet was in an entirely different part of the nerdsphere to audiophiles, and we had no idea what was coming. We also thought the whole headphone thing was just a Walkman away from disappearing and home cinema would take over from two channel sound. Oops!
We might be in the same place today. We think we know how the next few years will look, but a decade or more from now, our audio systems may do very different things, and trying to second-guess those things is next-level difficult. I would imagine that increased Wi-Fi bandwidth to stationary and mobile units alike might make both how we stream and the quality of those files change, and in the latter case change for the better, and hopefully improved AI makes access to all the music, ever a little more easy to navigate. I'd also like to think musicians will return to being suitably recompensed for their work, but at the moment that seems a folorn hope.
One thing is certain, though. It will probably be argued about frantically – because the stakes are so low. Although maybe in 10 years' time many of us will have been casualties in the Great Preamp Wars. I hope the next 30 years in audio are as much of an adventure as the last 30!