MP3 players had once been the de facto audiophile gadget, the thing you needed to have if you wanted on-the-go music sessions. Yet the most recent model, the sixth-generation iPod touch , was released as far back as That's because in recent times, MP3 players have lost their necessity. With smartphones able to play and, more importantly, stream music, the need for standalone MP3 devices has waned significantly. But beyond the devices, what about the format itself?
Let There Be Portable Digital Sound
Though it seems as if the iPod has been around forever, the device is actually only eight years old as of last week. Portable digital music players in general aren't much older, as the first clunky, hard-to-use, and expensive ones showed up in It's easy to forget that, prior to today's video-enabled iPod Nano and sleek Zune HD , state-of-the-art MP3 players were bulky and pricey devices with short battery lives, frustrating copy-protection schemes, and bad user interfaces. In this slideshow we'll look back at some of the landmark devices and features in the evolution of the portable MP3 player, over the past decade.
It held 32 megabytes MB of memory. One megabyte played about one minute of music, so this player couldn't hold many more than eight or nine songs. What do we mean when we refer to megabytes and gigabytes of memory? It all starts with a bit. A bit is a binary digit. It is used in binary code, a language computers understand, that uses only two digits, 0 and 1, to process information. A bit is a basic unit of information storage, or memory. A string of eight bits makes a byte. A byte holds only a very small amount of information, so we usually talk about memory in terms of kilobytes KB , which is 1, bytes; megabytes MB , which is 1,, bytes; and gigabytes GB , about 1 billion bytes. The Diamond Rio, released a couple of months after the MPMan, was also capable of holding 32 megabytes of memory.
If they really know their stuff, they'll even tell you it came out in late They're wrong either way, although you shouldn't be too harsh on them. Their mistake is understandable. Most tech-savvy types wrongly think Diamond's device was first because, like nearly every other major development in digital music, the Rio brought with it a spectacular flurry of legal wrangling and the attendant media exposure. Back in those days, you were nobody in the digital-music business unless the labels had sued you. So why did the Recording Industry Association of America single out Diamond as the first defendant in its doomed battle against digital music rather than targeting Saehan-Eiger Labs, which was the actual "patient zero? What a hassle. What went wrong?