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Nowadays, most people in the world love to listen to the music. Some of them use it for relaxation, some for inspiration and energy, but regardless of the reasons, music became an important part of our lives. This is proved by the fact that now we can meet more and more people with earphones in their ears while walking, going in subway or even working. Portable audio players are now as popular as the Beatles were in the 1960’s (Biersdorfer 2009).
Each era has its musical carrier. The 60’s and ’70’s were marked by ribbons in rolls and phonograph records; 80’s were marked by the advent of cassettes. Time passed and the carries changed; audio players became more portable, tech. The romance has gone away, and only practical issues remained – the music moved into digital format (GreenFacts 2008).
Just now we have “ipod”, “Iriver” and many more brands under which the players are produced. But thirty years ago such a thing as a portable music player, did not exist at all. There were weighty reel and cassette recorders, record players. There was no opportunity of spending time listening to favorite tracks. But the idea was hovering somewhere in the air and waited for its genius. The Japanese were the first who started to develop the idea of portable music players (Krakow 2005).
Even now, not everything is known about the exact creation of the first portable music player. There are two major and quite implausible versions: according to the first one, an engineer Nobutoshi Kihara created it for the head of Sony, so he could listen to music during long trips through the ocean. According to the second – the idea of a portable cassette recorder was created by Akio Morita himself (founder of Sony). Watching his children all days long listening to the stereos of their favorite the Beatles and Elvis, he need the device for listening to music, which he could take everywhere with him. He insisted player not to have recording function. And it was a bold move, considering that most of desktop cassette recorders were very popular thanks to their ability to record music (Clements 1994).
Sony guessed the desire of the public. The result was an absolute bestseller. In 1979, a small cassette player Walkman TPS-L2 was released. Although it was the first of its kind, it cost not so much – $ 200. The first Walkman players used magnetic audio cassettes and looked bulky a little bit. Sony first advertised that series in Japan, in 1979. Walkmans where almost always powered by two AA batteries and provided rather good quality music if the cassette was of good quality (Hart-Davis 2004).
Over time, Walkman TPS-L2 was recognized as one of the greatest inventions of the company. Or even the best in history in general. According to rating of the 50 best devices created by mankind made by the magazine PC World, the first place was awarded L2, seized the gold medal even from iPod. After that Sony decided not to stop: and in 1980 gave the world the first prototype of CD. And four years later the first portable model – Sony Discman D50 appeared. It cost accordingly – $ 500 (Glenn 2006).
The capacity of the first CD was 640 MB, and that number was not occasional. Morita made a research, which provided a very interesting data. It was found that potential buyers of CDs are the people who preferred to listen to classical music. Taking the most popular in Japan, “Ninth Symphony” by Beethoven, which lasts almost 74 minutes, the engineers transferred 74 minutes of 16th-bit sound into bytes, and received 640 MB (Grey 2010). While many people still think that such a size of a disc is just a technical limitation, it is not so. Some time later the discs with 700 and even 800 MB were created, although the laser parameters were not changed. One way or another, Sony has always focused on the needs of the buyer. And it was the main secret of success of the company during the period from ’70s to ’90s, when the vendor has acquired an impeccable reputation and tremendous respect among consumers (Lungu 2008).
Bit in the 1990s the Japanese did a mistake, creating its own ATRAC audio format and new carriers Mini Disc. Work in those areas could easily turn into a success. Mini Disc was significantly less than the conventional CD, consequently, as the players for them. The first player with new carrier, Sony Walkman MD MZ1, was compact in comparison with the first CD-models. But cost too much – $ 750 (Martin 2009).
In general a good venture suffered from fiasco. In Japan, the new invention was greeted very warmly, but the unyielding American market categorically rejected the creation of a new Sony. Sales of mini-discs in Russia were more very poor.
The market had plenty of cheap CD-players, which were much easier to use than the new Mini Disc with the new format ATRAC. The failure of the ATRAC was because of the need to transcode music from CDs to digital format – individual files. That dubious necessity took away five minutes of time on the transcoding of each record. On the one hand, it was a breakthrough – the recordings could be kept not on the compacts, but in the computer. But that fact also gave a big disadvantage: those days there were not so many computers and they were very slow and space on hard drive was not enough for music collections (Gross 2007).
In addition, music in ATRAC was protected by a system of copy protection OpenMG – the invention of Sony. Such records could not be listened to on another computer or player. The users were not satisfied by that fact.
If the failure of MD-players on the ATRAC was assumed, the refusal to support released in 1995 MP3 was a colossal folly. Many companies, including Sony, underestimated the prospects for MP3. The people understood the beauty of the new format. By 1998 hard drives were already able to accommodate a small audio collection, and the computers coped with encoding audio CDs to MP3. In addition, relatively small files could be easily sent over the Internet. So, none then needed that problematic ATRAC (Ruckert 2003).
So, in 1998, a rather unknown Korean company Saehan Information Systems released its first MP3-player called MPman F10. No discs were used; there was used a flash memory of 32MB. A low price and ease of filling the music through an LPT port showed that in the very near future, such players would have to become megapopular.
The first MP3-player on the hard drive – HanGo PJB-100 appeared a year later. It was huge as a brick (150h80h26 mm), incredibly expensive ($ 800), but with the memory of 4.8 GB. About 4500 minutes of music at a bitrate of 128 kbps (Dixon 2006).
The first player with hard drive was developed by Compaq, but has begun to be made in late 1999 under license by Hango and was called Personal JukeBox. PJB-100 had anti-shock buffer and could accommodate about a hundred of CDs to the hard disk with the capacity of 4.8 GB. It was “chubby” black player with a screen to navigate directly to albums and songs. Player Creative Nomad Jukebox with 6 GB of capacity released in September 2000, it still weighed a lot (about 450 g), but looked like a portable CD-player. Player Creative provided an opportunity to play WAV-files and the firmware update also allowed to listen to files in Microsoft WMA (Shamoon 2009).
In 2000, Kenwood has developed a portable CD-player DPC-MP727, which could play a CD with WMA-file, and in 2001 it introduced the Rio Volt – combined portable CD-player capable to play both audio CD, and CDs with MP3-files. It was possible to use a simple list of songs in M3U, but players with hard drives and flash memory worked on battery power longer (Humphries 2009).
The high price and smaller convenience led to the fact that removable media did not become popular in the MP3-players. That time, the company I2Go released player based on a miniature hard drive IBM MicroDrive. In the MP3-player with a small size it was possible even to insert two hard drives of 1 GB MicroDrive, but it cost $ 2000 (Keppler 2010). I2Go ceased to exist after giving its promotional samples to all the nominees at the Oscar awards ceremony in 2000. Iomega applied the same approach in players HipZip, which used much less expensive carriers Click on the 40 MB (PocketZip); cost $ 10 each. Players HipZip reproduced audio format WMA, AAC and MP3. The problem was in this: despite the fact that it was technically possible to support a capacity of 60 or 80 MB, Iomega preferred 40 MB in order more discs were bought. Alas, but to record 60 minutes of CD quality music on a disk with the capacity of 40 MB with no appreciable loss of quality is impossible (Green 2007).
Sony has developed its first digital music player in 2000, but it was not named Walkman and could not play MP3-files. Player MC-P10 Music Clip MP3 encoded files to ATRAC3, used by MiniDisc (and all music devices until the production of Sony phones Sony Ericsson Walkman). Then the player was renamed to Memory Stick Walkman and got a slot for flash cards Memory Stick, but it still played only ATRAC-files. In 2001, Nike introduced its first sport player Nike PSA Play, lightweight flash-player with large buttons, wrist holder and a neoprene case. In the same year Intel released the first MP3-player with a 128 MB – Pocket Concert, but it wasn’t very popular. And in October 2001, Apple announced the first 5 GB iPod (Khan, Joshua 2010).
So, the year of 2001 was a turning point, and certainly a landmark for the entire industry of portable players. That year, changed not only the way of listening to music, but the entire music industry changed. Instead of strange Japanese and gloomy Korean players there appeared a legendary iPod. Known for its thought-out products, Apple approached the creation of the player thoroughly: great headphones were added to “iPods”, also there was attached a mechanical scroll wheel and provided excellent audio chip. Later, wheel became a touch and it remains the same till today. In addition, Apple was the first that equipped the player with 1.8-inch hard disk drive of 5 GB that previously used only in subnotebooks (Sturm 2010).
There were also players with the capacious hard drives, but they cost a lot, were hefty, and the volume of 20 GB was simply not needed. IPod has become the golden mean between the storage capacity, size, and adequate price. Plus, the design made by Apple couldn’t remain anyone indifferent. And Sony, having lost all credibility and respect of the public, went into hibernation for almost five years during which we have not seen a single item product. Awareness of errors came rather late: only last year it was decided to abandon the format ATRAC and SonicStage.
So, during the last eight years the market of portable players grew much faster than in the ` 90s. The demand for MP3 players appeared. The company Archos, was the first that established in the PMP a full color screen. Since 2004, there was the fashion on video – every player then was not only to play music but movies also. Players got new functions – in the Rio Karma there was a support of an alternative format OGG, which was popular in 2003. Then, Archos has done absolutely useless trick, folding player and a simple digital camera – AV300. The idea, however, completely failed (Zimmer 2009).
The attempt of Creative to make a smart player, also failed. UMPC ZEN PMC looked cool in 2004, but it was absolutely useless: firstly, because of the size, and secondly, because of Windows CE. The little player Diva GEM has introduced Bluetooth, but in 2004 it was unclaimed.
But the year of 2005 gave us the iPod nano that is after all, the best of our days. Attractive appearance, small size, good price, quality of Apple – that’s the whole secret of success (AsanWay 2010).
Then music players were modified with different touch-screens and other implementations. The development of media players in general is very interesting to watch – you never know how things will turn – will there be a new trend maker or a new, unknown function will become standard? It is difficult to guess even a year ahead, because Portable Music Players are popular now and the technology is developing very quickly.
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