#ScienceLooksGood

Yeah They Still Work, Part 1: Minidisc

I'm starting a new series on some of my old gadgets that still work and are used as primary devices, standby replacements, or just once in a while reminiscing.

Background

Sony Minidisc players. Does anyone even remember them? They were quite popular in Japan but failed to make an impact in the US. The convenience of the hardware was outweighed by total misunderstanding of software and user experience.

I was introduced to the minidisc in college, before CD burners were commonplace. Even if you access to one, CD players had their typical problems of scratching and skipping. Overall, CDs lacked the durability of cassette tapes.

Hardware

The Minidsic solved this by offering a medium that was as durable as a cassette tape but offered the enough space for a few albums. In addition, the overall minidic player was smaller than a cassette tape, and this significantly smaller than a Walkman or CD player. I quickly made minidisc for my favorite artists, and loved being able to carry around 4-5 albums on a single minidisc.

Another great hardware feature was the remote that connected to the headphone wire. All the controls were available on my hand while the device was in my pocket. It even had some features that the current Apple headphones don't have - shuffle and repeat. Using the remote, you could also access the FM radio and listen to whatever trash is spewing on the waves.

Battery life is decent - can almost get a full day off one AA battery. No plug in charging here - just bring some batteries (regular or rechargeable) and you're good to go!

Software

Unfortunately, Sony completely screwed up the software. First of all, all songs needed to be converted to the proprietary audio format ATRAC for the device. This took forever, and could only be done on Sony's horrible software that constantly crashed. Because of this, I didn't freely edit my minidiscs as I originally planned. Once I made a compilation, it didn't change.

How Is it Now?

The minidisc player has become a viable option during my iPod / iPhone time when I've broken or lost my apple device. When I use it, I never feel like I'm using an ancient device - it still feels good and gives decent sound quality.