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The History of Portable Music

A quick history lesson showing the most important moments in the development the portable MP3 player

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The Early Years | The 70's - 80's | The 1990's | The New Millennium

Welcome to the Digital Music Museum History of Portable Audio. The following information will give the average consumer a different perspective on the portable MP3 players that we all take for granted. It is hard to believe the amount of technology that has been developed, tested and implemented over the past 150 years in order to bring us to the current MP3 player market.

The following information has been collected through a variety of online and print resources.

The Early Years

1877 - Edison successfully makes a recording of a human voice on a tinfoil phonograph.

1890 - The first variation of a "jukebox" is created using a cylinder phonograph.

1989 - Valdemar Poulsen patents the first magnetic sound recorder.

1937 - Alec H. Reeves invents pulse code manipulation (PCM) which translates pulses of sound into digital form.

1951 - The first magnetic tape storage system is used in the UNIVAC computer.

1962 - Philips introduces the first compact audio cassette.

The 1970's - 1980's

1971 - Intel produces the digital delay line circuits that would be later used in the first digital music devices.

1978 - Audio recording is now available to consumers through the new 14-bit Betamax audio recording and playback device.

1979 - Sony introduces the Sony Walkman, a portable cassette player that would go on to revolutionize the way we listen to music. The launch of this product would go on to create the multi-million dollar portable music industry that we know today.

1980 - Sony and Phillips introduce 5-inch compact discs (CDs) that would eventually go on to replace other portable audio media.

1982 - The first digital audio compact discs (CDs) hit the market.

1984 - Sony introduces the D-5 portable CD player that begin the transition from audio tape to CD in the portable universe.

1986 - Sony and Phillips introduce Digital Audio Tapes to the market. These 3-inch cassettes are capable of storing 90-minutes of audio and are used in the Sony TCD-D3.

1987 - Fraunhofer Institut Integrierte Schaltungen begins development of the MP3 (MPEG Layer Audio III) format in Germany under the project name of EUREKA.

1988 - CD sales surpass LP sales for the first time in history.

1988 - Sony's D-88 Pocket Discman is the first portable device to play 3-inch compact discs.

The Digital Revolution - The 1990's

1992 - Sony introduces the MiniDisc player featuring magneto-optical discs that are much smaller than standard compact discs.

1992 - IBM and Toshiba team up to create flash-memory cards that would later be used in portable digital audio players.

November 1997 - Music website MP3.com is founded by Michael Robertson.

July 1998 - The first ever MP3 Summit is held in San Diego and acts as a roundtable discussion between music producers, lawyers, and technology developers.

1999 - The Rio PMP300 is released. This is first portable audio player capable of MP3 format audio playback.

1999 - Napster, the widely recognized software that sparked a great deal of interest to the MP3 format, begins allowing Internet users to share their music freely with each other.

September 1999 - Sony introduces a new format in SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc).

The New Millennium - 2000 and Beyond

November 2001 - Apple ships first line of iPod portable audio players.