For audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts, nothing marks the downward spiral of humanity like the advent of the MP3. True, it won’t adequately fill a room with beautiful mid-tones, but at least you can respect the technological innovation that brought the MP3 to fruition. Via Mashable:
In the early days of the 20th century, telephone companies like AT&T sponsored research into sound quality and human hearing. How much information can be subtracted from a signal before human speech becomes incomprehensible? Knowing this bottom limit allowed phone companies to filter signals and greatly increase phone line capacity.
Decades later, in the early 1980s, pioneers of audio encoding faced the same trade-off: sound quality for file size (in this case, bits per second). Today this process is known as lossy compression. Early encoders like Karlheinz Brandenburg worked and waited for technology to catch up with their theories. Brandenburg, at the time a Ph.D. student at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, helped develop numerous modern audio compression techniques. The concept of the MP3 sprung from his research.