Singing a Sad Song

It's time to say goodbye to an old standard.

As the world transitioned from vinyl and CDs, it seemed that MP3s were everywhere. The MP3 file format quickly became synonymous with digital music. While there have always been other audio file formats, many people learned to rip CDs to the MP3 format because the compression algorithm was so good at reducing file sizes.

It's been a long time since MP3s took the music world by storm and now the organization that is credited with inventing and developing MP3s has announced that they will no longer be licensing MP3 software and patents. NPR's Andrew Flanagan reports on NPR's interview with Bernhard Grill, one of the people involved in MP3 development and discusses how MP3s became so popular and what's next for audio files.

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Discussion Questions/Activities 
  1. Despite the many headlines, it's important to point out that the MP3 file format isn't going away and neither is the music or other sound files that were created using MP3 technology. However, this is a good opportunity to discuss the importance of making sure important files are backed up and updated to the latest technology standards if they are to remain usable.
  2. Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to research a different audio file format. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this format? What is its primary use? Would it be possible to convert existing MP3 files into this format and if so, would it be a good idea to do so? Each group should create a presentation to explain their findings to the class.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to locate an example of old technology that has become obsolete. What replaced it? Is the replacement better than the original? Why or why not? Students should answer these and any other pertinent questions in a brief report.

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