Ahead of their time: Nine technologies that came early

Sometimes you build it, and they end up not coming.

By , ITworld |  Offbeat, computing history, Danger

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1987: Digital Audio Tape

It made sense, if you didn't think about it too much: Since analog LPs and 45s were being replaced by the digital CD, which was similar in that it was disk-shaped, why shouldn't analog cassette tapes have a digital replacement as well? Thus, Sony introduced the DAT format, which was expected to be the death knell of the ordinary cassette. It offered a unique combination of digital audio quality and easy recording.

But things didn't quite work out as expected. While DAT was quickly adopted by audio professionals and embraced by those who traded concert bootlegs, it was never really popular among ordinary listeners the way cassette tapes were: DAT recorders remained pricey, and CDs fulfilled most people's digital audio needs. Perhaps the DAT's more interesting legacy is that it prompted one of the first efforts by the music industry to legislate against digital copying: a bill proposed in the U.S. Congress by then-Senator Al Gore would have mandated the use of an early form of DRM to prevent DAT machines from copying copyrighted music. Legislative pressure ended when CBS, the company doing the most lobbying for the move, was bought by Sony, but the format still never took off.

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