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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Mini Disc was the home taping technology that dare not speak its name

Sony have announced they are no longer making MiniDisc players. This is not a surprise.

They were launched in 1992 as an attempt to challenge the compact disc, which had been developed primarily by Philips. Sony still believed, as it had believed when it launched Betamax, that if it controlled the hardware it would control the software.

MiniDisc was a fiddly medium and difficult to love but it had one great thing going for it. For the first time it offered the home taper a flexibility you could never achieve with cassette. You could record a bunch of tunes, then edit or delete them and change their order. In 1992 that was heady stuff.

Problem was Sony could never be seen to say anything positive about home taping. I was once paid to present this technology to a dealers convention but it was made plain that they didn't want me lingering on the one thing that made it an exciting technology.

After that you only ever saw it being used by bands or radio producers. The public didn't get why they might like it because every effort was made to keep it from them. Thus it languished and bigger technological fish came along to eat the record companies' lunch.

Last week Philips announced that it was no longer in the consumer electronics market. Amazing.