Chris Long's Column - 'MP3, yeah right...'

I noticed something was wrong when I realised I had two MiniDisk players. I justified the purchase of the second -- a portable -- because I needed something to make broadcast quality interviews on, but as I haven't done any broadcast interviews for several years, it was, admittedly, a weak excuse.

I noticed something was wrong when I realised I had two MiniDisk players. I justified the purchase of the second -- a portable -- because I needed something to make broadcast quality interviews on, but as I haven't done any broadcast interviews for several years, it was, admittedly, a weak excuse. Don't get me wrong, any minute now I might have a brainstorm and need to dash out and quickly grab an interview. If that happens I'll be ready, only that will still leave me looking for a way to broadcast it -- currently the only option is pointing my speakers out the window and cranking up the volume. I have become a bit of a MiniDisk convert, but at its launch back in the early 90's I was a little less sympathetic. Before we go any further I have to explain what a journalist does at a press launch like, say, the announcement of the MiniDisk. First we have to be late. I can do this naturally but some journalists have to work very hard at arriving ten, twenty minutes after the proceedings have started. You often see them walking up to the front door looking at their watch shaking their head and walking away. Then if there is any food we eat as much of it as possible. After stuffing ourselves we rush over to talk to the managing director, desperately trying to get food crumbs on their suit while telling them grumpy things like "the colour is wrong" or "it will never work". We then ask for a press pack and the free plastic thing that is being given away, not to mention the T--shirt and leave. Stalking out the instant we are on the street we get our free plastic thing out and start playing with it accompanied by enthusiastic cooing noises. So, at the launch of the MiniDisk the chap at the front of the room explained that MiniDisk technology throws away FOUR FIFTHS of the normal audio data -- so a MiniDisk has only ONE FIFTH the data of a CD. Thus when he explained that the MiniDisks were going to be a little more expensive than CDs I gained no brownie points by pointing out that we would be paying more money for less data. Alas I was sitting and the only thing I managed to spray with food bits was the back of the neck of the journalist in front of me -- I left a bit sharpish that day. So when I hear about MP3, I have much the same response as I did to MiniDisk. Oh and for those of you that living in a cave MP3 is an audio compression technology that some damn fools have been suggesting will take over from CD. It's lossy (that is, very simply, like MiniDisk: it throws data away but maintains enough to placate the user) compression that can make an audio file of similar quality to a CD but a tenth of the size. This is great for the Net -- but if you are stupid enough to want to record your albums and put them on the web then you thoroughly deserve being kneecapped by the record company lawyers. It's called natural selection, and is nature's way of keeping people with the IQ of pin mould off the streets and in the law courts. What concerns me is the growing idea that somehow MP3 is going to become mainstream. You can now buy MP3 players -- effectively lumps of memory that hold the files. The bizarre thing is how so many of the supposedly knowledgeable media outlets have been giving the idea that MP3 can exist outside the Internet. A technology that relies on you making recordings on your computer and then saving them there is not really going to get as widespread as CD or even vinyl. Add to that the fact that you -- at the moment at least -- need a PC to feed the audio into the portable MP3 player, we can start seeing the flaws in the MP3 sales patter. MiniDisk is still struggling and even now is only head to head with the audio cassette -- it's better quality and in some ways simpler than audio cassette and yet it is still down there struggling. So how on earth is MP3 going to take over the planet as the music playing medium of choice? Quick get me someone, I want to spray food over them. Has Chris Long lost the plot? Is MP3 going to take over the planet? All abuse to the Mailroom please.

Take me to the MP3 Special

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