July 14, 1995: On this day just fifteen years ago, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits officially christened MPEG Layer 3 technology with the file-name extension of mp3. In development since the early 1970s, mp3 changed the world of music forever because of its ability to efficiently maintain high standards in compressed audio files. In other words, mp3 allowed people to begin storing music on their personal computers, enabled CD ripping and also meant faster download times from the Internet. Today, there are thousands of mp3-related devices available worldwide which are used to store, sort and play music.
MP3 also ushered in an era of change for the music industry, which continues to struggle in a marketplace where the practice of buying a CD is taking a backseat to downloading and sharing music instantly, cheaply and illegally. Multi-million lawsuits have been launched by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) regarding copyright infringement, royalties to artists and labels, illegal file sharing and piracy not only of mp3 files themselves but also of the technology used around them. On the flip side, the mp3 format has allowed millions of people to connect with and discover new music, and it means that you can listen to your music virtually anywhere–it’s been a long time since you had to sit by your stereo to hear your favorite song. The pros and cons of the mp3 are emblematic of so much media technology today which may make some things easier, but also demands that we make responsible choices about how to use it.
July 21, 2007: It is difficult to overstate the ubiquity of the Harry Potter franchise, and on this day in 2007 the series came to its literary end. In its first 24 hours on sale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold a record-breaking 8.3 million copies just in the United States. The books may have contributed to increased literacy rates , and author J.K. Rowling has used their appeal to support numerous charities worldwide. The series has spawned films, a theme park, companion books, fan sites …you name it. It seems our media landscape will always have a place for the boy wizard.July 26, 1989: Robert Tappan Morris becomes the first hacker prosecuted for spreading a computer virus. Then a graduate student at Cornell University, Morris claimed the worm was intended as an experiment to find out how big the Internet really was. However, an error in the code programmed the virus to continue replicating itself, ultimately infecting more than 6,000 university, research and military computers. In 1990 he was sentenced to a $10,050 fine, 400 hours of community service and three years of probation. Today he is a teacher and researcher at MIT, and thousands have followed in his footsteps as enterprising hackers in their own right.