Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Sony Media Music Entertainment Hardware

Sony To Make Its Last MiniDisc System Next Month 263

Posted by samzenpus
from the way-of-the-eight-track dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that Sony, the creators of the MiniDisc audio format, are to deliver their last MiniDisc stereo system in March. Launched over 20 years ago in late 1992 as a would-be successor to the original audio cassette, MiniDisc outlasted Philips' rival Digital Compact Cassette format, but never enjoyed major success outside Japan. Other manufacturers will continue making MiniDisc players, but this is a sign that — over ten years after the first iPod — the MiniDisc now belongs to a bygone era."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sony To Make Its Last MiniDisc System Next Month

Comments Filter:
  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:15AM (#42782647) Homepage Journal

    I remember looking at these in the early 90's. They seemed interesting, but the inability to easily make copies due to idiotic DRM made it uninteresting to me. And I'm sure that Sony was asking absurd licensing fees for others to make players (like the home Betamax days).

    And rather than Sony learn any lessons, they have doubled down. For two decades. Is it any wonder their stock and their corporate goodwill are both in the shitter?

    • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:24AM (#42782689)

      I was going through a closet just today and threw out about 20 blank minidiscs that had never been used.

      Several years ago I bought a portable minidisc player. Battery life was terrible. I literally had to carry a couple of AA batteries with me at all times. But even worse was getting music onto the player. There were only two choices -- a program made by Sony that was a complete piece of shit, or, a plugin for Realplayer.

      And, for added amusement, transferring songs onto the player from my computer was very slow because they all had to be converted into Sony's propriietary, DRM infested ATRAC format.

      • by mug funky (910186) on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:42AM (#42782817)

        you could install the sony shit and use GraphEdit to wrangle it to your will, but generally it was never worth having to real-time play everything like the analog days.

        great hardware, terrible software. this is how sony roll.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          great hardware, terrible software. this is how sony roll.

          That's what they like.

          Unfortunately, they haven't made great hardware approximately since the Minidisc era. And Sony has never been able to make an optical drive with a decent lifetime. You're looking at the world through Sony-colored glasses. I bet you think the PS3 was probably too cheap.

      • by Kenshin (43036) <kenshin@lunarworksFREEBSD.ca minus bsd> on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:43AM (#42782825) Homepage

        Battery life was fine on mine. It ran for ages off one AA battery.

        Mine wasn't a "Net MD" player, so I got music into it by recording. I had a TOS Link cable out from my sound card, and just played a playlist while it recorded. Ya, it was a bit slow that way, but MP3 players at the time were expensive and very small capacity and CD players were chunky.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:45AM (#42782841)

        Sony's use of "MagicGate" DRM on the computer-to-MiniDisc link was inexcusable, as was their removal of line inputs from later MiniDisc "recorders" (so that you had to go through the DRMed computer-to-MiniDisc path). Their decision to separate MD-Åudio from MD-Data wasn't too great, and their slowness in releasing a high-density MiniDisc format (for a long time, they just pushed higher compression rates - LP2 and LP4) didn't help MiniDisc's cause.

        They probably could and should have lobbied against the copy protection / DRM, recorder tax, and media tax provisions of the AHRA. Especially given that they bought out the Columbia/CBS studios and record company around the time of the DAT fight. (Hope I'm getting my timeline straight here.)

        However, ATRAC in and of itself was not an evil thing. MP3 _players_ came out around - what - 1999? MiniDisc _recorders_ came out in 1992, and they had to be able to compress audio in real-time, not just to decompress it. ATRAC was no doubt designed to allow for real-time compression with the sort of embedded computing power that was available at the time.

        • by DrXym (126579) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:30AM (#42783811)
          It was with the introduction of MagicGate and Minidisc that Sony began to lose its marbles. Somebody in that company must have given themselves a big pat on the back when they hobbled the hardware with DRM and ATRAC3. They probably thought the public would roll over and eat that shit up, but instead the public just shunned Sony and started buying from the competition who used more open industry standards.

          I wouldn't be surprised if the media arm foisted this insanity on to the consumer electronics arm but it's all Sony as far as the end user is concerned. About the only ray of sanity in Sony was the PSP and PS3 which were pretty standards friendly and still are but even there it's not hard to see signs of interference. e.g. the PS3 has for the last 18 months or so enforced Cinavia audio watermarks which appear in some DVD and Blu Ray discs. Will it stop people ripping discs into media files? Of course not. Instead they'll just buy non-Sony kit to play it on. It's self defeating.

          • by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday February 04, 2013 @09:03AM (#42784575) Homepage
            Squandering the potential of MiniDisc through over-zealous DRM, self-interest (and conflict of interest) as well as Sony's general arrogance seems to be its story in a nutshell.

            The underlying technology of even the original MiniDiscs had the potential to be *way* more flexible and powerful than it was ever allowed to be. By the standards of the early-1990s it had masses of storage and random access, leading to the possibility of file-like transfer of music tracks. Granted, back then- years before MP3s rose to prominence- people didn't consume music as "files" nor have computers powerful enough to do anything with them anyway, and veering too far from the familiar paradigm probably would have confused and scared Joe Public.

            However, the potential to handle and transfer tracks in a file-like way *would* have been something people would have liked- if marketed correctly- even then. Instead, they forced people to dub things in real-time and restricted digital copying.

            And they could still have marketed it as a data format once established and provided they kept things clear. Had they done that, it may well have replaced the 1.44MB floppy. To be honest, Sony had the *technology* (and storage space) to do some of what MP3 players did almost a decade later, but they forced it into being little more than a digital audio cassette with random access.

            Even when they did improve the format and allow some data use, they forced users to play silly buggers with their crappy software and restrictions.

            And let's not get into how, when MP3 *did* come along, their self-interest, NIH and arrogance led them to drag their heels to such an extent that a personal computer company (which is what Apple had been up until that point) steal the market for portable audio from the company that had invented the Walkman and led it for 20 years. It's easy to forget how ludicrous that would have sounded in the mid-to-late-90s, but the market was Sony's to lose- they had the technology and the name- but they totally squandered it. They lost that market, and it was no-one's fault but their own.
            • > Squandering the potential of MiniDisc through over-zealous DRM, self-interest (and conflict of interest) as well as Sony's general arrogance seems to be its story in a nutshell.

              You've hit the nail right on the head! Sony's arrogance will be their down fall. They still haven't gotten over their Apple envy -- here Sony invents one of the most popular music devices -- the Walkman -- and completely fumbles the ball with digital music by allowing Apple to disrupt them! Due to greed one division of Sony wa

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday February 04, 2013 @02:27AM (#42783271) Journal

        But even worse was getting music onto the player. There were only two choices -- a program made by Sony that was a complete piece of shit, or, a plugin for Realplayer. And, for added amusement, transferring songs onto the player from my computer was very slow because they all had to be converted into Sony's propriietary, DRM infested ATRAC format.

        This is a good description of why Apple was successful with the ipod.

      • Sounds like a NetMD player. Terrible idea. At a time when I was looking at replacing my trusty old MD player which was the staple of my childhood music collection (DRM free mind you since it was of the manually record / playback variety like a tapedeck) the obvious contender was some kind of MP3 player. Then Sony shows up with the abortion that was NetMD. All songs required conversion, it didn't work on any software other than windows, and it was far larger than the competition physically.

        Not sure what your

      • I used SoundJam to get music onto it through that wacky USB to fiber optic converter.
    • The DRM certainly didn't help, but what really killed the minidisc was the introduction of the iPod and other MP3 players. Instead of constantly swapping out discs (each minidisc held 1 CD worth of music) you could just load up your MP3 player with dozens, or hundreds, of CDs. Once MP3 players came along, the minidisc went the way of the cassette Walkman.

      • The first iPod was released in 2001. I don't think it was the reason. I owned a MD player in the mid-90s and - as said gmhowell above - the system lacks flexibility when it comes to copying. Besides that, the MD player was great!
        • And unlike a lot of the MP3 players, most MD devices could record from analog sources (line input or microphone). Sound quality was pretty good and Hi-MD devices could record uncompressed audio (the downside was that a regular MD could only hold ~20 minutes of PCM recording, Hi-MD discs could hold more).

          I still use MD to listen to digital audio when I'm not at home (for analog I use a cassette walkman). I also use it when someone asks me to makea digital copy of ananalog source (cassette, record etc) - I re

          • The portable recorders are still very popular with local radio stations (always strapped for cash) doing field interviews as they're compact and rugged and sound good. Plus, the stations often use MD-decks for playing jingles and commercials, so the interview can be easily transferred and edited.
          • The recorders were actually stellar. Problem was just to get out again what you recorded unless you wanted to use the analogue hole. Which, coincidentally, was crappy enough that you could as well just record to a cassette tape.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        The DRM certainly didn't help, but what really killed the minidisc was the introduction of the iPod and other MP3 players. Instead of constantly swapping out discs (each minidisc held 1 CD worth of music) you could just load up your MP3 player with dozens, or hundreds, of CDs. Once MP3 players came along, the minidisc went the way of the cassette Walkman.

        I know that's what it says in the article and on Wikipedia. But by the time MP3 players came along, MD was already dead. The cassette Walkman went away. Except in Japan, MD never arrived.

      • they weren't that bad, the quality was fine with 4 cds to the disc
    • by dubbreak (623656) on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:37AM (#42782791)
      The DRM was definitely silly and I think that's what held it back. I had a couple MD players. In the era of 128mb solid state and cd mp3 players they were awesome. Lasted a month on a single AA (cd mp3 players would last a few days at best on 2xAA). Add extra memory cheap as compared to solid state. Super durable storage (much more resilient than CDs).

      The Canadian software was a lot more lenient on copying mp3s over (converting to AAC). IIRC you could copy an mp3 to devices 3 times before syncing it back as deleted off a device. Stupid limitation when with comparable devices you could make as many MP3 cds as you wanted or copy to mass storage type devices with no limitations. Other huge down side was not being able to get digital copies back off the device via the USB cable. You could use the optical out and record from that, but no drag and drop. It was a great device to plug into a mixer when doing a jam or even a show (high quality recording), but you couldn't easily get the digital file off. You should have been able to just grab it via USB like a comparable device, but that would encourage copyright infringement or something. Normal Sony behavior.

      I loved the format. I could have a few different mixes, throw them in my backpack and not worry. Carry an extra battery for when it finally got low and I was good to go. No skipping, pretty small (for the era) and reliable as could be. I really think the DRM and not licensing it were the reasons it never took off. That and not being able to use it as mass storage. In university as a computer science student having that as storage would have been extremely useful. Oh well. One more dead format to add to the pile.
    • Is it any wonder their stock and their corporate goodwill are both in the shitter?

      I suspect any Goodwill is more down to the growth of competing technology form Apple/Microsoft/Samsung as for their shares currently at a third in just months...ironically the same that Apple has fallen in *six*

    • by sd4f (1891894)

      Yea, you couldn't extract audio digitally off a MD, definitely not easily, all the consumer level gear wouldn't allow it. So once it was on a MD, you could only record it to something else via analogue.

      I didn't use hi md, so im not sure what that was like, but md was a really great replacement for a cassette player, on the basis that you used it in the same ways, ie copied music onto it, made recordings which were better quality, but didn't need to copy over to something else. Once flash started to get chea

      • by rthille (8526)

        I've got a Sony MD/CD player that will 'high speed' copy from the CD to the MiniDisc. It didn't have optical out to get the audio off my old MDs (mostly copies of my old Vinyl), so I hard-hacked it to add one. I never had one of the NetMD versions. Don't think I would have gotten one of the MDs at all due to the DRM if they started with that crap. One of these days I'll finish copying the MD's to my laptop and eBay the MD/CD box (and the portable MD player/recorder). They were nice tech for the time, b

    • drm? you mean scms?

      we solved that with DAT using scms-strippers. I was never into MD but I think they did have spdif inputs and outputs, on some models.

      but that's not the point. the point is that they used lossy compression and DAT was literal (lossless). so even spdif->scms-stripper->spdif, you still get a less than perfect copy with MD and DCC. with DAT, it was always perfect if scms=00 (the 2 bits that 'stick' once set and let copies go on forever, even using consumer decks).

      ah, the DAT tape m

    • by jcr (53032)

      Yeah, they screwed up DAT the same way. Made them both useless for sound editing.

      -jcr

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:46AM (#42784093)

      "And rather than Sony learn any lessons, they have doubled down. For two decades. Is it any wonder their stock and their corporate goodwill are both in the shitter?"

      Jesus, doesn't anybody here remember any history? Come on, folks, this is so far off as to be just plain BS.

      The reason MiniDiscs had DRM in the U.S. (but not Japan) wasn't Sony, it was Congress! The music industry panicked over MiniDisc because it was a "perfect" copy. That meant that unlike cassettes, you could copy endlessly and it wouldn't degrade in quality, like cassette tapes did.

      Hrm, that calls for some more history. MiniDisc came out -- in Japan -- before recordable CDs. The recording industry had fought both cassettes and CDs, unsuccessfully. But when faced with MiniDisc they lobbied Congress HARD, and the outcome was that Congress banned the importing or making of MiniDisc players until they implemented a DRM system that limited copying.

      SONY at the time was NOT known for DRM. Remember, Sony had, not too long before, fought in court on the other side of the battle, to make sure videotapes were legal.

      So it was Congress that is at fault here. Manufacturers wanted nothing to do with creating a DRM system in hardware. And consumers in the U.S., by and large, were uninterested in a DRM-laden system. The result was that it took a good 10 years before MiniDisc was widely available here. You could get them; a few were made with DRM. But they were rare and expensive. And the entire 10 years, Japan used them DRM-free.

      So stop blaming Sony. You're pointing your fingers in the wrong direction. It was the recording industry -- and a compliant Congress -- who were entirely at fault.

      • Citation needed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sjbe (173966) on Monday February 04, 2013 @09:15AM (#42784613)

        The reason MiniDiscs had DRM in the U.S. (but not Japan) wasn't Sony, it was Congress!

        Citation needed. I can find no evidence [wikipedia.org] to support this claim.
        Let's examine the timeline shall we?
        * In 1987 Sony purchased CBS Records which is renamed Sony Music Entertainment in 1991
        * In 1992 Sony introduces the MiniDisc.

        So shortly after Sony enters the music business as a content producer suddenly their latest offerings for playing music are loaded with DRM. Almost none of the competing technologies were loaded with similar DRM. The companies that made competing products were not in the content creation business and thus had no internal conflict of interest. When MP3 players came along Sony continued to try to push DRM on their music players despite most competitors lacking similar restrictions. All these were internal decisions to the company that cannot be blamed on anyone but Sony themselves.

        And somehow you think this is the fault of Congress?

        • Re:Citation needed (Score:5, Informative)

          by RattFink (93631) on Monday February 04, 2013 @09:42AM (#42784727) Journal

          The parent is right. Back then Sony had a lot of division between the Consumer Electronics divisions and the Entertainment divisions.

          By the late 1980s, several manufacturers were prepared to introduce read/write digital audio formats to the United States. These new formats were a significant improvement over the newly introduced read-only digital format of the compact disc, allowing consumers to make perfect, multi-generation copies of digital audio recordings. Most prominent among these formats was Digital Audio Tape (DAT), followed in the early 1990s by Philips' Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) and Sony's Minidisc.

          DAT was available as early as 1987 in Japan and Europe, but device manufacturers delayed introducing the format to the United States in the face of opposition from the recording industry. The recording industry, fearing that the ability to make perfect, multi-generation copies would spur widespread copyright infringement and lost sales, had two main points of leverage over device makers. First, consumer electronics manufacturers felt they needed the recording industry's cooperation to induce consumers – many of whom were in the process of replacing their cassettes and records with compact discs – to embrace a new music format. Second, device makers feared a lawsuit for contributory copyright infringement. [1]

          Despite their strong playing hand, the recording industry failed to convince consumer electronics companies to voluntarily adopt copy restriction technology. The recording industry concurrently sought a legislative solution to the perceived threat posed by perfect multi-generation copies, introducing legislation mandating that device makers incorporate copy protection technology as early as 1987.[2] These efforts were defeated by the consumer electronics industry along with songwriters and music publishers, who rejected any solution that did not compensate copyright owners for lost sales due to home taping.[3]

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Home_Recording_Act [wikipedia.org]

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        CD-R dates back to 1990 while the MiniDisc was first introduced in 1992 (unless Wikipedia is wrong, that is). It was also apparently released in Japan 1 month before the US release, which points to your story being bullshit or at least wildly inaccurate.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniDisc [wikipedia.org]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-R [wikipedia.org]

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      What DRM? My Minidisc recorders all accepted and sent plain ordinary SP/DIF and had a menu option to ignore SCMS which is about the only thing close to DRM. These weren't the high-end ones intended for broadcast and theatre, they were just a plain ordinary MD walkman and MD hifi separate.

      It was incredibly easy to copy to and from MD from DAT or from a PC with a soundcard that supported SP/DIF. At the time I was using an SB Live! Value which didn't have all its codecs populated - but the unpopulated ones

  • These seemed to be marketed to people who wanted to make mini-disc mix tapes, which seemed weirdly specific and obviously didn't catch on. But they were really good for recording live music and sucking it into a computer. Flash is obviously much better, but MD was around for eons before flash got cheap...

    • I remember reading somewhere, long ago, that the minidisc was originally envisioned as a higher capacity replacement for the floppy disc and storage for digital cameras (I once had a Sony camera that stored the pictures on a floppy disk)..

  • There were many of us who couldn't afford the Sony DATs like the M1(MSRP $1,000, sold anywhere between 500-900 used). We loved music and we loved "archiving" it. The mini-disc was a very reliable way to do this and get a reasonably good quality. It was not quite DAT or CD, but it was much better than tape. It was far easier to sneak in that a DAT or tape recorder as well.

    This was a pre-smartphone where concert security as at a high. We had to duct/masking tape our mini-discs to the inside of our thigh

  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Monday February 04, 2013 @01:00AM (#42782923)
    The most recognition I ever saw for this was that Neo used them.
  • Minidisc used lossy compression, but did so before MP3.
    Still being a physical format on a spinning disc, with a lossey codec devised early on, before much experience was gained, which was not well-rated... that killed it for me.

    Sony at the time (as usual) was hoping to replace the open CD format with their closed format. It wasn't just about portability. They wanted to sell pre-recorded discs and kill the CD.

    I'm amazed it has taken them this long to stop making them... I hope they lost money on it.

    It made a

    • at the time, digital audio for consumers was 3 choices: MD, DCC and DAT. DAT was finicky and expensive. DCC and MD came later and battled it out. DCC tried to get the cassette form factor guys to accept them. no one I knew (I was into digital audio in the 80's and 90's) had DCC. MD was more reliable than DAT, though, in many ways. it was lossy, but it didn't mistrack like DAT did.

      for live music tapers (I used to) you could pick MD or DAT. again, most people wanted lossless recording, so we never saw

    • ...Sony at the time (as usual) was hoping to replace the open CD format with their closed format. It wasn't just about portability. They wanted to sell pre-recorded discs and kill the CD.

      I'm amazed it has taken them this long to stop making them... I hope they lost money on it...

      Remember that Sony is one of the powers behind the RIAA; the limitations of the MD would have been the result of a deliberate corporate decision to hobble the format. Being able to copy content digitally, accurately, would have been utter anathema to Sony.

      And if you don't get the problem with Sony, they have a long, long history of egregiously bad corporate citizenship. This is extensively documented in Groklaw. It's horrible. They love to litigate, and being a customer is no guarantee they'll treat yo

  • by gweihir (88907)

    MOD media (the mini-disk technology) keep data and music reliable for more than half a century. Data on the crappy SSD technology gets shaky after a few years.

  • Not only does Sony sell you stuff that doesn't work with your other stuff, they will sell you content on that incompatible stuff so that when they give up the ghost on that proprietary format you have to buy the White Album AGAIN on their new, proprietary format that's totally better than the old one.
  • I had a Minidisc player (still do actually) and it was pretty good for what it did. However, I also had a Sony CD Walkan that played CDs recorded in ATRAC as a way to pack more on. The player has long since gone and when I went to play the CDs back on my PC to get the music back off them (original sources no longer available) it turns out they will only play back on the original PC that recorded them. WTF? I have the original Sony software that was used to create and previously play the CDs but now I have
  • by gravis777 (123605) on Monday February 04, 2013 @07:46AM (#42784315)

    over ten years after the first iPod

    Statements like this aggrivate me - mainly coming from Apple Fanboys and ignorant masses. Apple's iPod was nothing new or revolutionary. The iPod is 12 years old - but the portable MP3 player is 16 years old. Apple did not even introduce the first MP3 player with a harddrive, it was NOT the largest capacity when it came out, did not work with Windows, and there was no iTunes when it came out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mp3_player#History [wikipedia.org]

    In fact, the iPod did not really even sell that well until around 2005 - roughly 8 years after the first MP3 player came out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Total_ipod_sales.svg [wikipedia.org]

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      but it was the first one that did not SUCK. I had a Diamond RIO and it's UI and operation utterly sucked. most everything after that continued to suck in durability and usability until the ipod came out.

      • but it was the first one that did not SUCK. I had a Diamond RIO and it's UI and operation utterly sucked. most everything after that continued to suck in durability and usability until the ipod came out.

        I'm always astonished how Apple users feel the need to rewrite history...especially considering the irony. Apple lifted the UI wholesale from Creative. It got know as the 'ZEN' patent, Apple got Creative to go away with $100Million Dollars and the chance to make third party accessories.

        http://arstechnica.com/uncategorized/2006/05/6838-2/ [arstechnica.com]

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday February 04, 2013 @07:50AM (#42784327) Homepage

    in the Bootleg scene. Sony Minidisc units were the favorite as they would RECORD. you went into the bar with the binaurial mics in your lapel or headphones and your minidisc recorder. The bouncer searches you and only finds a minidisc player and lets you in. You then record the concert better than the guy at the mixing board.

    they were a LOT cheaper to get than a pocket DAT and would get past security a lot easier.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The bouncer searches you and only finds a minidisc player and lets you in. You then record the concert better than the guy at the mixing board.

      I've heard a lot of concert recordings, and I've never heard one that sounds better than a soundboard. That includes Grateful Dead shows recorded on professional mics on a 15' stand going straight to DAT.

10 to the 12th power microphones = 1 Megaphone

Working...