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By Lincoln Spector

The audio CD format is twenty-two years old-one tenth of one percent the age of an average redwood tree. Isn't it time we replaced it with something better?

Thanks to the modern miracle of the Internet and compact, compressed audio files, we are doing just that-at least if we accept the word better to mean "store more of it in tinier places, but with inferior sound." Here are some of the products, technologies, and web sites that allow even non-musicians to rip, burn, and otherwise express ourselves creatively.

Generic Terms

MP3 : The file format that moved music into the arena of the Internet. .mp3 files use lossy compression, meaning that it throws away some of the sound to make a smaller file. Unfortunately, it never seems to throw away the drum solo. Similar formats, like .wma and .m4p, are also lossy, but have the distinct advantage of not allowing you to play your music (see rights management ).

rights management : A body of technology, supported by a body of congressional lobbyists, designed to make sure that your spouse is not allowed to hear music that belongs exclusively to you.

MP3 player : A small, pocket-sized devise onto which you can store digital music so you can listen to it while walking, driving, and having a conversation. Thanks to MP3 players, we can all be like movie stars, living our lives with a constant musical soundtrack to remind us how cool we are. Unlike movie stars, these soundtracks rarely include effects, so you won't actually hear that out-of-control truck.

rip : The act of copying music from a CD onto your hard drive. The word was coined for this use by dropping the suffix "-off."

burn : The act of putting music that you have ripped back onto CD, so that you can carry less of it in a clumsier medium.

line-in : The port you must use to transfer music from an analog source, such as a phonograph or tape cassette, to your hard drive. This is a particularly tricky job, since your turntable and tape player are in the living room and your computer is in the den.