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See Inside September 2009

Digital Audio Player

Mobile music rocked the record industry

Sony’s Walkman portable audio cassette player in 1979 improved on the transistor radio by allowing people to take their preferred music wherever they went (engineer Nobutoshi Kihara supposedly invented the device so that Sony co-chairman Akio Morita could listen to operas during long flights). But the digital revolution in personal audio technology was another two decades in the making and had implications beyond both the personal and audio.

Portable music went digital in the 1980s with the rise of devices built around CDs, mini discs and digital audiotape. In the 1990s the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) developed a standard that became the MP3, a format that highly condenses audio files by discarding imperceptible sounds (although discriminating audiophiles tend to disagree with that description).

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