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Oh, MiniDisc

This week, with more enthusiasm than expected, I relaunched my Audio/Video Component Archive on Beyond merely putting it back up and watching site traffic increase, I've begun adding data to it too: a two-week long push to add Sony's recent car audio models (which should get the best traffic). I began with the CD head units, getting up to 2001 before going back to focus on the cassette models (not so numerous today as in 1995!). Listed with the cassette models were listed Sony's Minidisc head units. I felt nostalgic and went to check up on the old MD format... and I received a pointed reminder of why I created the AVCA in the first place.

Ye Olde MiniDiscI began building my home stereo just as Minidisc was coming down into my price range. The format caught my interest and I got a Sony MDS-JE530 as a Christmas present, making me the only person I knew to own his own MD recorder... a distinction I never lost. Every radio station I worked at had Minidisc, though, and it became my format of choice when I did my own show in college. I still have the deck next to my computer, used mostly for my personal music collection.

What I discovered today was that, when I wasn't looking, Minidisc went from an obscure format to a dead one. After a decade of lowering prices and better availability, the format being picked up by brands other than Sony, the weaker MD lost market to the same MP3's that are killing the CD format. Sony offered a single music-and-data model until recently, and now there isn't even that. Am I surprised? No. Am I disappointed? Not really. I guess I'm more excited in a sense...

When I brought the AVCA back this week, I decided to limit development to the 1978-2009 model years. This range accomodates the rise and fall of the Betamax, VHS, LaserDisc, the experiments with DCC, DAT, and countless other formats, the rise of DVD, the war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, and the decline of the CD as more equipment embraced MP3 technology. The MiniDisc now fits neatly into this scheme, as it wasn't introduced until 1992, around where my best data sources kick in, and had sunset by 2009. I'm optimistic that I can chronicle the entire history of the format without having to guess things and put ??? marks everywhere.

I'll record a moment of zero-bit silence for Minidisc. The recorder I have still works and I'll still find uses for it, but in the let's-just-use-the-CD-form-factor-for-every-new-format age it was destined to become pushed out of a shrinking market... we're all listening to MP3's now anyway.


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