TechCrunch spent a little time musing on the nature of audio in our lives today.
Audio, the spoken word, is humanity’s primary means of sentient communication: the sounds a fetus hears in utero; a lover’s whisper; a marriage proposal… all leave deep imprints on our hearts and minds. We use sound to accentuate and transmit our emotions; our aural ability is a primary sense that is deeply connected to emotion.
In fact, much research indicates that hearing is the most important of the five senses. We detect harmful and dangerous sounds with our ears — if a fire alarm rings in the middle ofthe night, we depend on our hearing to alert us of impending danger. While historically sight has been the most valued sense, audio has been catching up.
As the technological era dawned, audio enjoyed a heyday. Thomas Edison’s phonograph, Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of the radio and Orson Welles’ successful dramatization of “The War of the Worlds,” in what would essentially become the world’s first popular podcast, all left their imprint on history.
But while public programming enjoyed an auditory renaissance in the twentieth century,audio was losing out to an antiquated rival in our day-to-day lives. For generations, humanity’s primary means of communication across distance was the written word: a shortcoming so critical that technology needed to be invented to fill the gap for the spoken word. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and the QWERTY keyboard in many senses actually backtracked our progress by prioritizing visual technologies over auditory ones.