MP3

MP could very well stand for "Mr. Popular"


Philips was there when MP3’s granddaddy, Mpeg, was born

Does the Moving Picture Experts Group Version One Audio Layer Three sound familiar? Surprisingly, this is the expansion of the MP3 acronym. And, if you haven't heard of MP3, then we'd like to know what kind of bugs you were eating while in that cave for so very long. Crunchy ones?

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MP3 is a compression format designed to significantly reduce the size of an audio file. The compression of a file is necessary, unless of course you enjoy waiting six hours to download the latest hit from the Boppin' Betties. Never heard of 'em? That's because they don't exist.

In all seriousness, MP3 is a file type derived from its ancestor, the original codec Mpeg1. Since Mpeg1 was introduced in 1993, MP3s have become the dominant file type available to music lovers. Unlike most tech inventions these days, Mpeg1 was actually developed throughout Europe during the 1970s and 80s. Although most of the companies behind Mpeg's rebellious preteen years have since faded into oblivion, Dutch developer Philips played a major role in the audio format's creation. By 1994, Mpeg audio had reached a polished state and was ready for widespread use.

If you own a digital music player – and you probably do – it will almost undoubtedly play files with the .mp3 codec. Why the 3? It's simply the third installment in the Mpeg audio universe, which followed the release of Mpeg1 and the sad, uncelebrated middle child Mpeg2. Like the ending in a good baseball movie, it took Mpeg until strike three before knocking a walk-off homer out of the park.

Although it remains the most popular codec, MP3 has a number of inherent flaws. Firstly, the bitrate of the MP3 is limited and is unlikely to ever be found at the optimal 320 kb/s. What that really means, dear friends, is that you can't quite match the sound quality of your average compact disc.

Couple the above issues with the inherent nature of compression and decompression. You should know that MP3 uses lossy audio encoding, a method of compressing files that can, well, cause the eventual loss of quality. By repeatedly compressing and decompressing a file, it becomes more and more likely that the hit tune you're downloading will sound like a juggled pack of tic-tacs.