MP3 Players

The story of mobile entertainment

The portable MP3 player is a phenomenon of modern technology. As a media player, it's stripped down to the bare essentials when compared to other portable gadgets. But what the basic MP3 player offers is universally appealing. MP3 players answer the overwhelming call of mankind through the ages - the need for portable music.

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In the Stone Age, early man had lightweight portable sticks they used to create their own rhythm-oriented music. Pounding lightweight sticks on hollow objects wherever they traveled created the perfect tribal dance music for early man's dance parties. But it was a lot of work and, as mankind's musical tastes expanded beyond Neolithic rhythms, there was a need for more harmonious playback while traveling.

The fundamental need for portable music was met with wealth and cunning, even in the Middle Ages. Aristocracy consisted of wealthy knights and every wealthy knight worth his salted pork had a traveling minstrel to sing his praises- with a vast repertoire of tunes of course.

Eventually, the needs of civilization changed and even regular folk demanded portable music. In response, man created technology to meet his traveling music needs. In the beginning, the transistor radio met this need nicely. Portable, lightweight and costing much less than a fellow in leotards, the transistor radio seemed perfect. But musical choices were always limited to a local DJ within broadcast range. Finally, personal playback devices emerged in the early 80s with the advent of the Sony Walkman. In the late 90s, the portable MP3 player emerged as the latest way to satisfy that most universal of human needs.

Say what you want about how cool other portable digital media devices might be. They might play games and have cool full-color displays, but it's the simple need for portable music that is universally fulfilled by the MP3 player. No matter how cool your full-featured media player might be, the MP3 player is what scratches our itch which is why they're the most popular portable gadget of all.

MP3 players are really Digital Audio Players because they usually play more than simple MP3s. An MP3 is a compression format, a way to compress digitally encoded sound files. The MP3, or MPEG Audio Layer III, format is used to compress audio using a logical algorithm to separate redundant sounds and inaudible tones. The effect of compression is to reduce the size of the music file so it can be easily transported across the internet or stored in a library.

The MP3 player stores and manages an MP3 music library and can play back music files usually into a line output or amplified into a headphone jack. MP3 players have an operating system that allows music files to be organized and accessed in the manner that fits the user. The use of playlists is almost universally employed by all makes and models of MP3 players since their inception. As stated, MP3 players are more specifically DAP or digital audio players because of their compatibility with other digital musical files, including WMA (Windows Media Files), AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) and sometimes WAV files.

The first successful MP3 player on the market was the Rio PMP300 created by Diamond Multimedia in 1998. The PMP300 became the must-have item for tech savvy Christmas shoppers in the '98 holiday season. Soon the Recording Industry Association of America filed a lawsuit against the makers of all digital media recording devices alleging their devices abetted illegal duplication of copyrighted material. The precedent-setting case was called Sony Corp vs Universal City Studios. The court decided that the use of digital copying devices such as MP3 players (this included video tape and digital video recorders) for individual use does not constitute copyright infringement. This means we can legally use our MP3 players to rip tunes for personal use, but we cannot legally distribute them.