Unitrends Greatest Hits: The Evolution of Music and the Technology That Drives It

“Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what… it has the power to unite us.” – Lady Gaga

Music has passed from generation to generation — from the first bone-carved instruments in the Paleolithic period to the easily consumable entertainment product it has become in the 21st century.

Advances in technology accelerated the production and distribution of music into a highly portable product. In many ways, the evolution of music runs parallel to many of the improvements made to data storage and delivery technologies.

Let’s take a look back through the decades at some of the most pivotal moments in both the evolution of music and the technology that drives it.


The earliest data storage technology was delivered via punch cards, which were widely used by workers in the textile industry. During this time, data was stored physically, not digitally, on computer devices.

Flat disc records, in part due to the ease by which they could be mass-produced, gained popularity in the early 1900s, replacing Thomas Edison’s earlier phonograph cylinders. The transition from shellac to vinyl, much lighter and more durable, began after World War II. Around the same time, the industry standard changed from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm, enabling greater amounts of music to be recorded on a single disk; a 12-inch, 33 rpm vinyl record supported around 20 minutes of per side. It helped the old country folks enjoy country boogie, Chicago electric blues as well as jazz-based music that featured instruments such as the saxophone and boogie woogie drums. These sounds laid the foundation for the evolution of the rock and roll era.


“Jazz music is the power of now. It has no script. It’s a conversation.” – Wynton Marsalis

By the turn of the decade, rock and roll grew from roots in jazz, electric blues even gospel. The pioneer of soul, Florida-based singer songwriter, Ray Charles, struck a deal with Atlantic Records, releasing “I Got a Woman” in 1955. The single became his first song to reach number one on the U.S. R&B charts. On the other hand, Sun Records sold the contract of an unknown artist to RCA for $40,000. That unknown artist went by the name of Elvis Presley.

Likewise, changes in record players saw improvements to hardware components used to turn the disc and produce sound; direct-drive turntables, balanced tone arms and more. One device in particular, the Technics SL-1210, was credited as “one of the pieces of technology that shaped the world we live in.”

Media became easier to distribute and consume, which led to a surge of radio stations. High-fidelity magnetic recordings made it possible to broadcast pre-recorded music and programming.

The year 1951 marked the debut of the UNIVAC, one of the earliest computers, which was used to input, store and export data from the punch cards. It wasn’t until 1956 that the earliest hard drives were brought to market by IBM. The 305 RAMAC was the first to make use of rotating magnetic disks and boasted an early capacity of 5 MB.


“It traces back to 1965… ‘Burn, baby! Burn!’ … Magnificent Montague was the charismatic voice of soul music.” – Easter Eggs from Apollo 11’s Source Code Ignition File

After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Elvis Presley went on to produce three number one hits in 1960: “Stuck on You,” “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, debuting a more mainstream adult sound. He faced stiff competition from Chubby Checker’s cover of “The Twist,” which also reached number one on the charts in 1960 and 1962, sparking a nation-wide dance frenzy.

Across the pond, two little-known artists, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, first started performing in Liverpool, England, in the late 1950s, establishing the foundation for what would become The Beatles. They debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, drawing a record audience of 73 million viewers in their first appearance on a U.S. broadcasting network.

Meanwhile RCA, Ampex, Ford, General Motors and Motorola worked together to bring the 8-track tape to market. The use of magnetic tape for audio replay produced high-quality sound and offered similar capacity to vinyl records, with 46 – 60 minutes of playtime. The 8-track players became the dominant format of the decade due to their inclusion in many cars throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.

In the late 1960’s, the first Woodstock Music & Art Fair was held in Bethel, New York. It became a historical event of musical significance, where an estimated crowd of 500,000 witnessed Jimi Hendrix’s now legendary performance.

With music lovers tuning in and spacing out to the unbridled power of rock and roll on earth, the Apollo 11 went one better and made a successful moon landing in 1969. When the guidance computer’s code was released onto GitHub in 2016, programming enthusiasts went through the code searching for Easter Eggs. One such was the ignition file named “BURN_BABY_BURN” — the programmer’s reference to the ongoing Black Power movement and popular soul artist of the time, Magnificent Montague.


“Today I showed my nephew an old 1.4MB floppy disk and he said: ‘Cool! Someone 3D printed the Save icon!” – Unknown

By 1970, The Beatles broke up, with all four members pursuing successful solo careers during the decade. In 1971, another artist from across the pond, Elton John, broke into the U.S. Top Ten with hit song “Your Song.”

That same year, IBM released the first 8-inch floppy disk drive for commercial sale, with a capacity of 80KB. The technology accelerated quickly. By 1975, the floppy disk had been reduced to 5.25 inch in size and boasted 1.2MB of storage — a 1,500% increase in capacity in a few short years.

We also saw the emergence of the UK rock band Queen, with the iconic hit “Bohemian Rhapsody.” A drastic departure from the traditional pop formula of the day, the song reached number one on the UK charts and number nine in the U.S. less than a year later. The 8-track tape evolved as technology improved, offering smaller form factors and high portability. With the release of the Sony Walkman in 1979, music became incredibly accessible, and listeners could take their music with them wherever they went.


Music Television (MTV) preceded the release of the first compact disc (CD) in 1982, launching 300 U.S. cable systems. While digital recording began in the 1960s, it wasn’t until two decades later that the first CDs were available commercially. Developed by Philips and Sony, by 1985, they offered two modes for their CD-ROM: Mode 1 was used for computer data storage while Mode 2 offered compressed video and/or audio data. The format quickly became the standard; the use of a laser to read encoded data off the disc was a significant innovation in audio technology. ABBA’s “The Visitors” was one of the first music albums converted to CD media. It was soon followed by the first album released on CD, Billy Joel’s “52nd Street.”

The Unitrends story began towards the tail end of the decade in 1989 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Founded by Dr. Steven Schwartz, Unitrends launched its first product, the Compressing Tape Archiver (CTAR), as the company began developing backup and crash-recovery technology for commercial use.


With the advent of the ‘90s, hip hop grew by leaps and bounds. Artists like NWA, Queen Latifah, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Tupac Shakur influenced and diversified the genre with new sounds. Meanwhile, alternative rock and spin-off sub-genres like grunge and pop punk exploded into the mainstream. REM, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were some of the trendsetters popularizing these new sounds.

In 1995, the combined efforts of Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic brought the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) to market, improving the disc form factor by boasting 670% greater capacity than CDs within the same physical dimensions. Electronic distribution of music was also making headway with the development of the earliest MP3s by Motion Picture Expert Group (MPEG). MPEG developed the audio standards of Layer I, II and III, offering increasing audio quality at low bitrates.

Commercial data storage also made tremendous strides during the 1990s. NetApp released the NetApp Filer commercially as one of the first NAS devices brought to market. Portable USB flash drives were introduced towards the end of the decade, with the earliest ones boasting comparable storage to CDs (if not more) and offering significant improvements in capacity to floppy disks. In 1999, Unitrends released Backup Professional, a precursor software to today’s Unitrends Backup, designed for desktop clients as well as server backup and recovery.


While rock, pop and hip hop remained popular, it was the rise in garage rock and new indie rock styles that took center stage. Pop rock hits by Blink 182, Nine Days, Jet and Snow Patrol all reached new heights on the U.S. Billboard charts. Teen pop also grew in popularity due to artists like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Peer-to-peer music sharing, an inevitability with the rise of digital file formats, reached notoriety in part due to the success of the infamous sharing service Napster, which boasted more than 25 million users in 2001. Artists including Metallica, Dr. Dre and even the Recording Industry Association of America filed suits against Napster for leaking music before it was officially released. As a result, the company shut down later in 2001 and declared bankruptcy soon after. By this time, music had moved off of the desktop and onto portable, pocket-sized devices called the Apple iPod, offering a 5GB hard drive supporting storage for 1,000 songs.

The year 2002 marked the debut of Unitrends’ first purpose-built physical hardware backup appliance — one of the first purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs) available on the commercial market. A couple of years later, early iterations of cloud computing became publicly available with the launch of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Simple Storage Service (S3) in 2006, followed closely by Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud services platform.


By 2010, many music groups disbanded and artists such as Justin Timberlake of NSYNC and Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child go on to pursue successful solo careers. Taylor Swift became the first country artist to win a VMA award and her work was pivotal in sparking a revival of country music in the 2010s. Traditional instruments including the mandolin, ukulele and bongos were once again popularized by rock groups such as Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers. Meanwhile, hip hop continued to remain an incredibly popular genre while artists like Bruno Mars, Adele, Maroon 5 and more all hitting the top of the charts during the decade.

The success of the iPod birthed a number of other models including the Mini, Shuffle, Nano and Touch. Other players such as Zune attempted to break into the market, but none could match Apple’s dominance. By 2012, Apple sold more than 350 million iPods worldwide. The accompanying iTunes, essentially “jukebox” software, marked the company’s transition into music sales in 2003. iTunes has been the largest single distributor of music in the world since 2010.

The 2010’s saw tremendous acceleration in the technology space. Microsoft launched their SaaS platform Office 365 (now rebranded as Microsoft 365) in 2011. Today, the platform is home to more than 250 million active users, making it Microsoft’s fastest-growing consumer product ever.

For Unitrends, the 2010’s was a time of tremendous growth. Gartner first recognized Unitrends on their Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup and Integrated Appliances in 2014. Unitrends would be recognized as a “Visionary” for Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) in 2016, a year after the service was officially launched to consumers. In 2017, Unitrends was again recognized as a “visionary” in the DRaaS quadrant and was one of only two vendors recognized for both Data Center Backup and Disaster Recovery as a Service.

Present Day: Unitrends

Today, Unitrends Unified Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery enables our customers with a complete platform to address the data backup and disaster recovery challenges of today with an agile solution to back up, secure and recover all workloads. The platform encompasses protection for traditional data center infrastructure as well as cloud-based workloads, SaaS data and endpoint devices such as laptops and PCs. Purposeful integrations with security tools provide end-to-end protection against cybercrime and human error, inject automation and artificial intelligence to simplify complex systems, and provide a unified experience with visibility across a complete backup infrastructure.

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