What did we do before MP3? I remember the early years using my Dolby high speed dubbing tape decks to make copies of the tapes my friends and I used to share. Not too soon after came the Compact Disc, and I ran out to buy a Pentium 60mhz with a 2x CD-Recorder to make my mix CD’s.
I was amazed that we could “rip” huge wav files off the CD’s and play them back on the PC. But disk space was at a premium in the 90’s, due to the limited capacity of hard drives.
There had to be a better way to store music! That’s when a friend introduced me to the MP3 format. Full length songs at decent quality only 3mb – 5mb! WOW this was amazing, think of the possibilities. There were no portable MP3 players yet, I found myself taking a laptop in the car hooked to an FM transmitter to listen to my music.
I even marketed a CD on eBay for $10 that had plans for a car MP3 Player Just imagine putting a computer in a pizza box in the trunk of your car, running a PS/2 cable to a numeric keypad and mounting a 40 character display to your dash board with a parallel cable. It was good business until the portable MP3 players began to arrive about a year later.
A BRIEF TRIP DOWN THE PORTABLE MP3 PLAYER MEMORY LANE
The first MP3 player I owned was the Diamond Rio. I think it had 16 or 32Mb (NOT Gb) of storage and was able to hold about 15 or 20 of my favorite songs. Going back to the original spec it boasted features like “No moving parts!”, “Can store up to 1 hour of music”, and “Near CD quality sound”. I can only say the Rio was a good start, but grew stale very quickly. It became tiring to rip my CD’s to MP3 and then transferring the songs via SERIAL cable to the Rio, mine was sold after about a year of use.
I moved up to bigger and better players! 6 whole Gig of storage in the Archos Jukebox. This little guy had an actual laptop hard drive that ran off 4 AA batteries. Now I was able to up my game to 100 hours of music! Plus it was USB so moving the data in and out was much less painful. The Archos was one of the first devices I hacked and installed custom firmware on. ROCKbox was free replacement firmware that worked very well on this device.
After the Archos, I wound up getting sucked in by Apple and have been hanging around with them ever since
SO IS MP3 REALLY DEAD?
Short answer NO! The company “Fraunhofer” who holds the license to the MP3 format published an article stating that they are terminating the MP3 patent-licensing program. Why? BECAUSE THE PATENT EXPIRED (on 4/16/2017) Many news outlets got it wrong claiming an untimely death to one of the most popular audio formats in history.
At this point the Fraunhofer institute would prefer device manufactures license their AAC audio codec, which is still patented and can still make them money. (see the motivation here?)
BUT MP3 IS SO OLD! WHY NOT USE BETTER?
You are absolutely correct MP3 is a very old format and plenty of better options exist. However keep in mind that MP3 is supported by just about every device and is everywhere. Its so widely used by our smart phones, car audio systems, TV’s, and computers just to name a few devices.
You can compare the MP3 format to JPEG files, they are almost the same age and share wide acceptance across just about every platform. Now that the format is patent free, I’m sure some development group out there will improve on this great technology so we can be assured that MP3 will be around for many years to come.
Thank you for reading my blog,