|Bear with me here for a few paragraphs of background. Its well worth a few moments of your time.
Most of us have never had to worry about codecs or plugins. The standards, hardware platforms, and software of the previous years allowed us to play most common audio or video media right from the web with minimum fuss, in whichever Internet browser or media player was provided with our computers. Such is no longer the case.
The largest influences in the computer world are now competing for a 'winner-takes-all' standard for content delivery of audio and video over the Internet--and soon over always-on digital phones. This particularly affects Golden Age Radio enthusiasts who have tended to standardize on the relative ease and quality of MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3) compressed audio for playing and archiving their recordings.
From the very design stage of MPEG-1 compression schemes you have but to look at the 126 genre descriptions hardwired into the guts of those standards to see that Golden Age Radio recordings--or an audience for them--weren't even on the designers' radar. Click on the button to see the ID3 Version 1 Standard's tag coding choices for genre that are all we had to choose from up until a only recently:
Now I'm sure with a bit of imagination, one might be able to fit perhaps 20 - 30 of the 2850 known shows or series in circulation into one of these genre tag categories. Here are a few possible suggestions:
||'Pete Kelly's Blues' perhaps?
||All of the Westerns? Bit of a Stretch
||'Jeff Regan' or 'Rocky Fortune'?
||'Les Paul and Mary Ford'? "Burns and Allen"?
||'Tarzan' or 'Jungle Jim' maybe?
||'Life with Luigi' or the 'Mel Blanc Show'?
||'The Mysterious Traveler'? (ouch)
I could get sillier, but I think you take my point by now. What inevitably happens--if anyone takes the trouble to begin with--is that they usually end up throwing most of them under 'Oldies', 'Other', 'Comedy', or 'Retro' tags, none of which even remotely suits the vast majority of Golden Age Radio genre appropriately. I think you get the idea now.
Golden Age Radio recordings--transferred, cleaned up, and compressed to the highest MP3 quality available--still go wanting for lack of a usable genre with which to tag them under these standards. History clearly shows that the audio compression industry never, even remotely, considered archival Radio recordings or transfers of Golden Age Radio to be worth the slightest consideration in their larger view of the recording industry.
And so it evolved that, no longer content with promoting their particular flavor of audio and video delivery solutions while still maintaining backwards compatibility, Microsoft, QuickTime, and RealNetworks are in a heated battle to become the surviving standard for content delivery. Content delivery using their standards, naturally. Behind this, lie the three or four major codec design and engineering firms with their own agenda and emerging technologies--again based primarily on further establishing and defending their patent rights, as well as on better math and far more powerful, readily affordable computers.
The latest scheme is to make their respective delivery mechanism inseparably tied to the operating system or architecture of the underlying platform. This ensures that a consumer is forced to take an all-or-nothing approach to his or her choice of audio and video media once he or she settles on their platform of choice. This, irrespective of the size of the preexisting media collection on-hand. This flies in the face of the previously stated intent of most Internet media providers to make the Internet the one 'platform-neutral' venue for exchange, interchange, and sharing of data.
Post-Napster, the feeding frenzy over media rights and protection issues has changed everything for the forseeable future--perhaps forever. And with no one inclined to step forward and present a more altruistic means of divying up this vast new market, its the consumers that end up damaged the most in the meantime--or waiting for all the trickle-down benefits that seemed to get congealed at about the manufacturing level.
That having been said, there are still a few ways to maintain compatibility with one's media collection while continuing to upgrade to the fastest and most powerful media delivery technologies and platforms. And there are just as many fine tools available for enhancing the playability and listening enjoyment of your existing recordings even more.
Many Tools Are Available to Help You Regain Control Over Your Media Choices
After all is said and done, codecs and plugins are all simply algorithm-based data compression schemes. Yeah. Just plain old math.
Thankfully, enough of the algorithms are freely available and in wide enough circulation that an open-standards system for creating and disseminating media codecs will also be with us for years to come. The unfortunate aspect of this is that the consumer will now have to become more well-read on how to either enhance--or recover from--their media playing tastes which well may be at odds with their hardware platform or operating systems of choice.
In any case, most of the audio in our Golden Age Radio collections is pretty much fixed in digital time. Once source material is compressed, the digital material that was removed can't be put back in. Such is the nature of compression algorithms. And yes, with a super-computer and a few hundred thousand dollars you might very well be able to sufficiently extrapolate the missing material back into a previously compressed recording. But not at a reasonable cost to the vast majority of consumer-collectors. And what would you be left with? Not simply part of an original recording, but a complete new invention of it. Not nearly as authentic, no matter how it ends up sounding.
Here then, are a few avenues of relief with which to preserve your ability to play your collection as conveniently as before, even WHILE surfing the Net to look for even more little recorded gems. . . .