Back in the dim-and-distant past, one of the first things I used the family Commodore 64 for was creating a database cataloguing all my music – that and playing Horace Goes Skiing, of course.

This article appears in the November 06 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

It wasn’t just vinyl singles, LPs and CDs, either. Having patiently recorded the Top 40 chart every Sunday to my Binatone cassette recorder, I’d card index the order in which each song appeared, its running time and exactly where on the tape it started, labelling each cassette alphanumerically.

Our C64 let me harness all this information into a central database, although the interface was highly unimaginative and mimicked the card index it replaced. Such time-wasting joys as MySpace, instant messenger or YouTube could have made my pre-teen years much more interesting.

These days, there’s no need for any of this nonsense: CDs and MP3 files have information about the artist, track, album and more embedded in them. Insert a CD to be ripped to your PC’s hard drive and, as if by magic, a full track listing and other details appear in your music player. If not, a one-click request retrieves this information from an online repository, grabbing a copy of the album cover while it’s at it.

Windows Media Player doesn’t just read these details – it groups music by type, considers your feedback about particular tracks and decides how often to serve them up. There are even online sites that help you discover artists based on what you enjoy. With greater integration between PC-based music players, online music stores and internet radios, plus the success of businesses that profit from multiple micro followings for authors and bands, this will be our pattern of consumption from now on.

Little surprise, then, that WMP 11.0 will combine tightly integrated photo, music and video libraries with seamless access to online stores.

’Data’ is merely a series of digits, but when your ratings and the way you use files add context, this becomes ‘information’. And information is what the intelligent search and cataloguing behind modern-day apps harness. This is the information age.