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MP3 Jukebox

I was on IRC the first time I heard the term “MP3” used. It took me a while before I got the point of transferring digital music files back and forth. I remember thinking at the time, “Why would I want to download music I already own and listen to it on my computer?” At that time I was still a dial-up modem user. It took longer to download most songs than it did to listen to them.

Scanning back through my MP3 collection I found a handful of songs with dates as early as March of 1997, but it wasn’t until that summer (June, specifically) that the collection really begins to grow. It’s no coincidence that right around that same time is when we first got a high-speed Internet connection at work …

It still took a long time for me to warm up to storing and listening to MP3 files on a computer. In fact, in the early days of MP3s I actually converted some of them to cassette tapes (!) for in-car listening. I only did that a few times; around that same time I had a CD player installed in the car, and I instead began using programs to convert the MP3s back to WAV files so that they could be burned as normal audio CDs. This was both a lengthy and somewhat expensive process (blank CDs were still $3-$5 each back then).

Technology progressed as technology does. When I moved back to Oklahoma in 1998 I met up with an old modem buddy of mine (Random) who had somehow amassed 11 CDs worth of MP3s. 11 CDs worth — can you imagine? After copying those I thought, “who on Earth would ever need this much music?” This was still before the days of ripping and trading full-length albums; people were still trading individual songs back then. The 11 CDs consist of directories like “70s,” “80s,” and “Funny.”

Compared to today’s MP3s, most of these old files suck. Today, a bit rate of 128k is bare minimum (I prefer at least 192k or VBR). These old files max out around 128k; some of them are 96k and some of them are less than that. There’s no rhyme or reason to the naming conventions, either. Some are “Band Name – Song Title” like they should be; others are backwards. Some files are all lowercase, some are all uppercase, some have underscores for spaces and some have no spaces at all. Ugh.

I’m not sure how, but those original few MP3 files grew into a digital mountain of music over the past ten years. What began as a few files grew into a few CDs, which has now grown into hundreds of CDs containing thousands of albums. I have more music than I could listen to in a lifetime. Additionally, I’ve ripped about half of my current CD collection (600 or so) to MP3 format, which means I have another 600 or so to go as well. I’m making headway, but it’s a slow process.

Recently I decided to build an MP3 Jukebox for the house. For this project I bought an external 1 terabyte drive. Doing a little math I figure I have somewhere around 400 gigabytes of MP3s files, and another 100 gigabytes of music videos. The terabyte drive (1,000 gigabytes) should easily hold everything and give me years of room for growth. The idea is that my digital music will be accessable from multiple places within the house, including our computers and Pivo in the living room.

And so, the project of copying 500+ CDs worth of MP3s to the terabyte drive has begun. I have a pretty streamlined process at this point; I wrote a tiny batch file (shovel.bat) that copies entire CDs to the external drive and then pauses when finished — all I have to do is insert another CD and press any key to restart the process. It’s a mindless process that I can do while watching television or whatever.

While the files copy, I’ve begun cleaning up the “singles” directory. That’s approximately 3,000 files that need to be manually renamed. To be honest, probably 90% of these songs are duplicates that I redownloaded when I began collecting MP3s in album-format, but good ol’ OCD won’t let me get rid of them. Then again, you never know when I’ll get the hankerin’ to listen to Mr. Bungle cover the Super Mario Bros theme.

One album I would never admit to owning is Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy

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