My Portable Music Devices: A History - Part 2

At the time I was listening to music on my CD Walkman my friends started dabbling in something called Em Pee Threes. This is one of those things that certainly ages me - I remember the first ever MP3 player I ever saw - a 16Mb model that carried four or five songs uploaded from a computer that presumably took forever to upload them. It was at Scouts, the owner was Johnny Sharp, and the device was almost magical. 

At anyrate I was left behind when my friends started getting them. Sony appeared to be the best at making these wee Network Walkman models, with three close friends having them at the same time I had my Discman. In researching this blog post series I rediscovered a few models I'd forgotten about - Saleem's 6Gb Hard Drive MP3 player, Davy's 3rd generation iPod with it's red-light back lit buttons. These MP3 players were something I wanted to get in on. 

But instead of going to this digital revolution I instead decided I'd use my staff discount at The Link to buy an end-of-line MiniDisc player by Sharp. Yep, I had a MD player.

The Sharp 1-Bit Portable Minidisc Player MDDR370H

I don't remember the exact reasons for buying the MDDR370H (man, they really knew how to make snappy names back then) but the device was employed towards the end of sixth year at high school and all the way through my first year of Uni (from autumn 2003 to 2005). I know this exactly actually, because I have the email from the purchase of the device that would replace the MiniDisc player.

I actually still have the MDDR370H (!!!) and remember it fondly. Here's the rub for those who are looking at the MD player like it's a Betamax player from the 80s - it played (exactly as you'd expect) mini discs that were called diskettes and were basically high density floppy discs that inside the plastic square held the same tech that was fitted onto the CD but double sided and with a key component - they were recordable. My player was actually a special type called a NetMD player. It used a computer to transfer files to the device kinda like how an MP3 player worked but with terrible compression that meant that the sound quality was stripped right out.

I remember burning discs of music and preparing what I wanted to have on them. I have an "Indie Disc", an "Incubus" disc. The space was limited and only extended by MDLP, a format extension that meant that the quality was pretty terrible but that I managed to fit more music on there than previous minidiscs.

What I found when I popped a battery into the device when my sister dug it out was actually how easy it was to use and play, swapping music in and out. The sound was dreadful (plumped up by a "Bass Boost" that made everything sound like it was coming from a different room) and to be honest my memory of it was far greater.

But the device was such a small square, and the battery lasted a long time if memory serves. Of course, today the device is stuck in limbo - without a Windows XP machine I can't record music onto it any more, and certainly cannot make changes to the discs already burned (nevermind finding virgin minidiscs to burn in the first place) but it was a nice format that was my little companion during one of the most prolific periods of music discovery in my life - the issue that it had was that it was barely more convenient than that of the discman that I'd bought it to replace, due to the faff in getting the CDs I bought every week into MiniDiscs.

That complaint would be wiped out by its replacement.