Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Mar 2017 00:02 UTC
Multimedia, AV

In this video you'll see the first machine and the last machine as well as some in-between. There's talk about MD-LP, Net-MD and HiMD. It's a personal retrospective of a format that was loved by many people around the world but one that is all too often is judged purely on its lack of performance in the US market.

Great video by a great channel.

I'm one of those MiniDisc people. MiniDisc was fairly successful in The Netherlands, and quite a few people around me were MiniDisc users as well. I've had countless machines over the years, and I was still using HiMD well into the smartphone era - and carried both a smartphone and my HiMD player for quite a while. Even though the world had long ago moved on to MP3 players and then smartphones, I was still using MD.

I've long wondered why, and this video finally made it dawn on me: rituals. Since prerecorded MiniDiscs were rare and incredibly expensive, you copied CDs onto MiniDiscs instead. Especially before the advent of NetMD and later HiMD, you did this without the help of a computer. You'd get a new album, listen to it, enjoy it - and then, to make sure you could listen to it on the go, you plugged one end of an optical cable into your CD player, the other end into your portable MD recorder, and copy the CD in real time. Once it was done, neat freaks like me would even enter all the track information using the little dial on the recorder, track by track, letter by letter. Painstaking doesn't even begin to describe it.

Even listening to your MiniDiscs - they were satisfying to hold, the loading and unloading was deeply mechanical, the spring-loading trays were a delight. It was just an endless array of rituals that, while pointless and cumbersome to others, were deeply enriching and soothing to me. I guess it must be similar to people still using vinyl today.

To me, MiniDisc was one of the greatest formats - not because it was better or more advanced (even though during the 90s and early 2000s, it actually was), but because it was full of little delights and rituals. Just one of those irrational things that only few of us will ever fully understand.

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Comment by dark2
by dark2 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 03:31 UTC
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Too bad my mini disk software contained the Sony rootkit, making it very unusable now.

Reply Score: 1

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What I liked the most - the long battery life - with around 50-55 hours of playing time on a single AA battery at a time when the flash memory based music players needed to be recharged after 12-16 hours of playing time.

Next - the capability to record from a live, analog, or digital source without needing a computer. Unfortunately, the capability to record from a sound source rather than via a download from a computer eventually became restricted to the higher end (price) models.

I wished that data could have been recorded on regular MDs. This became feasible much later with the Hi-MD generation.

Conversely, there were a few sound recording units based on the technology but requiring the super-rare MD-Data discs to record multi-tracks.

Reply Score: 5

I thought about you
by mikesum32 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 05:05 UTC
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I thought about you Thom when I saw this the other day, because I remembered your fanatic love of the MiniDisc.

Reply Score: 2

RE: I thought about you
by henderson101 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 19:30 UTC in reply to "I thought about you"
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Long time subscriber to Techmoan. It's a great channel.

Reply Score: 2

Still got my MD
by Worsoe on Tue 21st Mar 2017 07:59 UTC
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I still got my midt 90s Sony MZ-R30, with a lot of discs. Haven't used it for many years, but last time I tested it, it worked fine.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Still got my MD
by henderson101 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 19:29 UTC in reply to "Still got my MD"
henderson101 Member since:

Yeah, I have one of these too! Awesome little device.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by p13.
by p13. on Tue 21st Mar 2017 08:41 UTC
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I'm glad you found techmoan.
Great channel indeed.

I wish MD would have been developed further as a generic storage medium.

The CD/DVD/BR form factor is just too scratch prone and you can't carry it around in your pocket.

IF MD storage would have been standardized, then there wouldn't be a need for external drives on smaller form factor devices.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by p13.
by daedalus on Tue 21st Mar 2017 08:59 UTC in reply to "Comment by p13."
daedalus Member since:

Unfortunately it looks like it would still have been outpaced long ago by USB flash storage, which is even more compact and far more convenient. While optical storage capacity has gone up over the years, it hasn't done so at the same pace as flash, so popularity as a storage medium would've just extended its life by a year or two rather than opening up a whole new life for them.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by p13.
by Kochise on Tue 21st Mar 2017 09:23 UTC in reply to "Comment by p13."
Kochise Member since:


Proud owner of several MO drives (5.25" and 3.5")

Reply Score: 2

Comment by daedalus
by daedalus on Tue 21st Mar 2017 09:09 UTC
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I still have mine, still working perfectly. It's a Sony MD-750 or something along those lines, had an FM radio in the remote (something else missing from most phones these days...), an incredible battery live, and despite being mechanical, was incredibly resilient, having survived more than one trip bouncing down a metal escalator as I ran for trains.

For me the feel was a big thing too, but the editability was so important as well - it was the spiritual successor of the cassette tape, with the ability to rearrange and delete tracks as you went, easily swap albums with friends etc. (They were fairly popular in Ireland too).

My wife had a very serious one - still portable, but very high end which she used mainly as a recording device as part of her singing career. The quality was pretty excellent and it served her well until she got an Edirol SD-card-based recorder.

I must dig my player out and play with it again...

Reply Score: 2

Love it
by arsa on Tue 21st Mar 2017 10:23 UTC
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I used my Sony MZ-RH1 actively for years until 2013. It remains in good shape and I keep it well. I am looking forward to see my kids' opinion about it, once they grow up :-)

Reply Score: 2

by kurkosdr on Tue 21st Mar 2017 10:35 UTC
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MiniDisc's problem was that it occupied that cursed middle ground of not being compatible with CD, but not being as revolutionary as solid-state players. Plus the draconian DRM that neither CDs nor MP3 solid-state players had.

I was thinking of getting an MiniDisc player, but when I looked at the price of players and recordable discs, I just bought a pack of CD-RWs instead, and by the time my music needs grew I bought an MP3 player.

However, back in the days solid-state players were an experimental technology, if portable CD players were too big for your pockets, then you were the niche market MiniDisc occupied.

Edited 2017-03-21 10:44 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Re:
by henderson101 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 19:35 UTC in reply to "Re:"
henderson101 Member since:

Depends where you were in the world. They ended up being incredibly cheap in Europe. I got mine circa 1999/2000, and it lasted me well in to the mid 2000's as a daily driver. It was only buying an iPod around 2005/2006 that really changed that, but I used it to regularly record live audio until at least 2012. For that it was awesome and the quality was amazing. The fact that the mic had an adjustable input level meant that with a cheap boundary mic, recording was a cinch.

Reply Score: 2

CDs: the new retro
by jibanes on Tue 21st Mar 2017 14:09 UTC
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I used MDs for about 10 years, I truthfully enjoyed it, I owned the stellar Panasonic SJ-MR200 along with a few Sony ones; equally as good; one of them had the recording option and s/pdif optical input.

They had their own limitations, and the battery life was one of them; most recently I bought a portable CD player, they are awfully cheap now; not much larger than a CD itself, and they have throw-away batteries (I think that's great, so you don't have to carry the charger when travelling); and blank CDs are sub-$1.

The best thing is that many CD players can play CD-RWs and mp3s; that means that you can hold ~14 hours per cdrom; keep an eye open for these in garage sales.

Reply Score: 2

by lighans on Tue 21st Mar 2017 14:20 UTC
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Your minidisc love brought memories to my love/hate relation regarding DCC.

It worked great, great recording with great microphone for such a compact sized thing.

But it was a cassette! And meant to fail. But it was fun.

Reply Score: 2

Still have one
by darknexus on Tue 21st Mar 2017 15:31 UTC
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I still have a Sony MZ-B100 portable md recorder and about 6 discs to go with it. I haven't used it much, but ironically I did get it out the other day just to see if it works... and it still works perfectly! It's at least twelve years old and has been through some rough treatment, and there's not a thing wrong with it.
Unfortunately I don't really know what to do with it, however I'm reluctant to let it go at the same time.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by FlyingJester
by FlyingJester on Tue 21st Mar 2017 17:05 UTC
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I still use minidiscs. They are crazy cheap, and the players have been extremely reliable.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by FlyingJester
by rener on Sun 26th Mar 2017 11:38 UTC in reply to "Comment by FlyingJester"
rener Member since:

crazy cheap? I'm curious can you share where you get them? cause I only see crazy expensive ones on ebay, ... ;)

Reply Score: 1

by gfx1 on Tue 21st Mar 2017 17:37 UTC
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Never had one but bought some empty disks as a gift. Musicians liked them to record rehearsals and performances.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by stormcrow
by stormcrow on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 02:23 UTC
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Yeah, I owned a NetMD for a while myself, and I personally thought it a convenient device to own. Small and not prone to skipping like portable CD players of the time. It's Achilles heel was the horrific program needed to write music to the disks. I cringe remembering having to use that piece of crap. And since the disks themselves were actually encrypted with DRM on top of using a proprietary codec, open solutions from 3rd parties weren't going to happen.

Now, none of that affected the professional quality minidisc recording systems that were in widespread use at the time. If you wanted live performances from whatever local public venue on the local radio stations, they required you to submit the recordings on a minidisc for many years. I'm no longer privy to that sort of thing, but I would be surprised if they didn't accept other formats, including media-less ones, these days.

But other than the professional quality systems, minidisc players weren't at all common. In fact, I was the only person I personally knew that owned one (I live in the US.)

Reply Score: 2

Everyone has that old tech..
by bassbeast on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 04:41 UTC
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That has a warm fuzzy place in their hearts. To you its Minidisc, to me it was 8-tracks and Compact Flash...remember those? My first pre-recorded album was Kiss Alive II on 8-track, I used duct tape (as my late father always said "If you can't fix it duct it") to connect a big ass Panasonic 8 track (used 8 D batteries and had one really fat speaker, classic 70s) to my Yamaha 80 and drive around my little teeny tiny town...I had to be around 10? God where do the years go?

As for Compact Flash? Man I loved that format, so many of the early digital recorders used them, you could use them as a hard drive (great for laptops back in the day, the first SSD) and my first one could hold 20 floppies worth of data! I remember thinking I'd never be able to fill up that much space..../looks at the 100 disc spindle of BD discs filled with files/ those days went by pretty damned quickly, didn't they?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Everyone has that old tech..
by daedalus on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 08:58 UTC in reply to "Everyone has that old tech.."
daedalus Member since:

I didn't realise Compact Flash had gone away... It still seems to be the storage medium of choice for high end cameras due to its far higher write speed than SD. Less mainstream perhaps, but there isn't yet anything to replace it in certain fields.

Reply Score: 2

bassbeast Member since:

Its not so much "gone away" as been replaced by new incompatible cards with a similar shape, Cfast and now CFexpress. As you may have guessed one is based on SATA and the other PCIe but while they look similar to old faithful CF cards they sadly are not backwards compatible.

So if you have anything that requires the original CF Type I or II? Might want to buy a few spares, just as I did with my original SD cards as they are being quickly replaced by MicroSDs and SDHC/SDXC and my Tascam Portastudio doesn't support the newer cards.

Reply Score: 2

Ideal for a car!
by Riba on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 07:11 UTC
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No one has mentioned it yet, but I had a MD unit in my car until mid 2000 when someone broke in and stole it.

MD format was ideal for a car, the media was easier to handle and easily resisted the summer temperatures.

The memories....maybe it is time to install it again, I guess the units can be found for cheap nowadays.

Edited 2017-03-22 07:20 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Ideal for a car!
by daschmidty on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 02:20 UTC in reply to "Ideal for a car!"
daschmidty Member since:

I had one too (a Kenwood deck i bought used in 2003 or 2004) that jumped between my various beater cars until it finally rode along with one to the scrapyard in 2012. The first car it went into was built in the 60's - MD was quite the upgrade from the factory AM-only radio

Reply Score: 1

I need to dig out mine
by waynej on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 08:20 UTC
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I loved my MD player

I remember when I first saw an MD player and decided "I need one of those". I got a gorgeous blue Sony one and I still have it somewhere. It was a beautifully made item that just felt 'right'. Sound quality was excellent and the operation was wonderful. The only downsides were the capacity of the discs and the utterly ghastly program needed to download music to the discs - awful, awful, awful.

Excellent battery life and the small screw-on battery compartment to extend life was a fantastic idea.

Like most people, I stopped using mine some time ago (let's face it, our phones are so much more convenient), but I'm going to dig it out tonight and have a play.

Reply Score: 1

Yep, can confirm
by rener on Sun 26th Mar 2017 11:37 UTC
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It was mostly awesome:

…, sans the SonicStage root kit or the MP3 access, ;) !

Reply Score: 1