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Sony Announces End For MiniDisc Walkman 191

Posted by timothy
from the bloom-is-off-the-rose dept.
Beloved of concert tapers for their small size, shock resistance, and long battery life, MiniDisc recorders never much caught on with the general public. I remember playing with one in the early '90s — before high-quality solid state stereo recorders were affordable — and looking forward to the day that I would have one of my own. Playback-only decks were available, but understandably (in retrospect) never became big sellers; when MiniDisc was introduced, CDs were still a recent comer, and 8-track was fresh in the mind. Music fans were probably tired of replacing their vinyl and cassettes with the Next Big Thing. Still, with its cheap media and decent portable recorders, MiniDisc struck a chord for some uses, and stuck around better than the Digital Compact Cassette. Now, 19 years after the introduction of the MiniDisc format, Sony has announced that it will stop shipping its MiniDisc Walkman products in September, though it will continue to produce blank media.
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Sony Announces End For MiniDisc Walkman

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  • Are you like seroius? i just bought 1 like W T F
    • Are you like seroius? i just bought 1 like W T F

      That must make you an early adopter of obsolete devices...

  • So I guess people who used to use portable MiniDisc recorders will have to switch to portable flash-based or hard drive-based recorders once their MiniDisc recorders give out. What brands are any good?
    • by plover (150551) *

      A musician friend of mine just picked up a TASCAM DP-008. [tascam.com] He was debating on whether he should buy a USB-2 or a Firewire based A to D system, and decided something he could take along to live shows without bringing the whole laptop and cable thing was even better. I think he paid about $299 for it.

      Takes SDHC cards, so an 8GB card will hold a lot of sound. But while it's an "8" track device, it can only record two tracks at a time (you can record two while playing back up to six others, supposedly it's g

      • by JavaBear (9872)
        The TASCAM DP-008 hardly fits in a (normal) pocket...
        • by plover (150551) *

          No, it certainly isn't pocket-sized. If you were to show up at a concert with one, even the most cursory obligatory no-liquor-inside pat-down would find it.

    • by Simon80 (874052)
      I found the following comparisons useful because they have sample recordings:
      http://www.audiotranskription.de/english/second-comparison-2010 [audiotranskription.de]
      http://www.audiotranskription.de/english/organmusic [audiotranskription.de]
    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      Get a Zoom H1 or H4n, they have excellent battery life and the H4n can lay has XLR microphone inputs (and can run phantom power!) if you need that. Sony also makes a PCM-D50 which is more expensive but it has a real gain pot for the microphones and it has better mics than the Zoom onboard ones IMHO -- on the Zoom you can only control the mic gain by hitting buttons, so you hear a big "click" on the recording when you tweak levels.

  • I wanted a cheap MD-Data drive but they weren't available at the time; to me, Minidisk recorders themselves mostly became affordable just around the time that they were ceasing to look the best option. Maybe if I'd been older and had more funds, things would have been different. It's all a bit of a shame though because it was a cool technology that I did want to play with.

    • Re:Too bad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @02:53PM (#36706472) Journal

      Same here. I remember reading about MD-Data when it was first released. A 140MB removable drive, with cheap disks (a fraction of the price of ZIP disks, only 2-3 times more expensive than floppy disks), smaller than floppy disks and much smaller than CDs. When they were released, my computer had a 60MB hard disk, MD-Data sounded amazing but I never actually saw one.

      If Sony had pushed MD-Data a bit more, they'd have owned the floppy-replacement market. MD Data was much more suited to laptop use than recordable CDs and took less space than a floppy disk drive. They would probably have held that market until flash drives became cheap. With the 1GB disks, it would probably have lasted until quite recently.

      I don't think Sony even made a laptop with one, which was a huge shame. They should have made MD-Data the only built-in removable storage device on their laptops, made floppy drives optional on their desktops, and licensed the drives to a second source for other manufacturers. People would have complained for a bit, then wondered how they managed with the bulky 3.5" disks that only had 1% the capacity of a MiniDisc. Using them just for music was a huge waste.

      • by Artifex (18308)

        Yours is the comment I came in to write! I did see a picture of a portable MD Data drive plugged into a laptop when the format(s) was first introduced (there was another disc format they announced that was part pre-recorded and part blank, too, which at the time would have been interesting for games), and it was definitely before Zip disks really caught on. This would have been the format to beat, and I kept waiting for a drive to finally show up for consumers.

        I used to wonder why they never marketed it wid

  • They were awesome for recording music. I still have mine somewhere I believe. It is sort of a shame to see them die but the disks are a hassle.
  • with its cheap media and decent portable recorders

    There were a lot of things to describe minidisc, but cheap is not one of them. It was not cheap in comparison to any other media you could buy at the time, which may well have been a part of why so few people ever bought it. Minidisc was a neat idea, but it was never at a practical price point.

    • They were a lot cheaper than DAT (digital audio tape) equipment and media. Even though Minidisks used compression, the quality was, for most enthusiasts, more than adequate. That is why I got a Minidisk, after looking long and hard at portable DAT equipment.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      It was in the rest of the world. I remember visiting the US thinking "cool, I can stock up on cheap MD discs since everything is cheaper than in the UK" and was amazed to find that the media was expensive since no one seemed to be interested in the format. It was a superb replacement for tape at a time when no one had even heard of "mp3s".

      None of the "pro" MD decks Sony released (which are still used in radio - they are common in the industry) had the stupid SCMS copy protection that was mandated on the con

    • There were a lot of things to describe minidisc, but cheap is not one of them.

      I went shopping for one of these after they had been out for a year or two. I went to the Sony store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. They wanted $800 for a portable player. They assured me that people in Japan were snapping 'em up by the dozen.

      I never bought the hype, and they never made it anywhere near affordable. In retrospect, yeah, Sony is kind of clueless that way.

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        I went shopping for one of these after they had been out for a year or two. I went to the Sony store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. They wanted $800 for a portable player. They assured me that people in Japan were snapping 'em up by the dozen.

        Really? I bought one at a big box electronics store (portable Sony MiniDisk player/recorder) for about $50. This was maybe 10 years ago or so. It was a lot smaller and lighter than a portable CD player at the time and cost about the same. I still use it to this day although it has gotten a lot harder to find blank media.

        • Really?

          Yes, really. It was around 1993 or 1994, and I was comparing it with tape players like the Walkman. I just checked Wikipedia and, yes, due to the dollar/yen they had to introduce it at about $800 or so.

    • by Artifex (18308)

      It was not cheap in comparison to any other media you could buy at the time, which may well have been a part of why so few people ever bought it.

      I believe Zip discs were over $15 each for a long time. MD-Data would have probably sold for around the cost as the blank music ones, which was cheaper ($9-13?)
      As MD was smaller, had higher capacity, and was more rugged, this should have been a slam dunk.

      • It was not cheap in comparison to any other media you could buy at the time, which may well have been a part of why so few people ever bought it.

        I believe Zip discs were over $15 each for a long time.

        I should have been more specific, in that minidisc was used pretty well just for music on the market; I never saw a reader or recorder for using them on a PC.

        That said, the format that should have eaten iomega's lunch on the portable storage front (before CD-R became cheap, of course) was the LS-120 superdisk. One drive could read and write regular floppies as well as LS-120 discs, and the discs themselves were cheaper than the Zip discs. But they were too late to market to make any kind of difference;

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      It wasn't marketed very well either. Most people didn't know they existed.

  • by amaupin (721551) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:37AM (#36704758) Homepage

    ...MiniDisc recorders never much caught on with the general public.

    Never much caught on in the U.S., you mean.

    In the late 1990's, early 2000's portable minidisc players/recorders were incredibly popular in Japan and Europe.

    • by Vahokif (1292866)
      Really? I'm from Europe and I've only seen once in my entire life, in Norway.
    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      In the late 1990's, early 2000's portable minidisc players/recorders were incredibly popular in Japan and Europe.

      I wouldn't go so far as to say they were "incredibly" popular in the UK (i.e. Europe). They were still *nowhere* near as big as traditional cassettes nor CDs at their peak- but they definitely did seem to enjoy a noticeable boost of success around that time. What I didn't get was why MiniDisc suddenly became moderately popular here at the turn of the millennium, several years after the format had originally come out and apparently done nothing.

      Two possible reasons- one, they reduced the price to the point

  • I haven't found anything else with comparable audio quality. I know the ageing ATRAC codec used on Minidiscs are inferior to the latest generation codecs, such as AAC, but the D/A converters and amplifiers were far superior to those in the latest portable units, even iPods which are not just hampered by poor amplifiers, but also shoddy encoding and a high level of dynamic compression in iTunes. And I must say that as a portable recorder they actually seem to be cheaper than comparable solid state recorders.
    • IIRC some of them could record in uncompressed PCM. Maybe I should look into buying one. I sometimes want to record audio to a digital format but using a PC to do that (and using the PC for anything else while it records) leads to glitches, so I'd like to record to some device then copy the data to a PC, right now recording to PC is less convenient than recording to a cassette, but sometimes I want to have the music in a digital format.

      • by JavaBear (9872)
        Most, if not all of the Hi-MD recorders have LPCM as an option, here you get about 90 minutes on a 1GB disc, and the last version of their SonicStage utility you can up- and download any content, even "protected" discs, from their Net-MD units. I still use my Sony MZ-RH1 on occasion, which is identical to their MZ-M200. On an ending note, I said it back when the PSP came out, and I'd like to repeat it again; Sony should have used the Hi-MD format in their PSP, and settled on a slightly modified higher den
        • UMD wasnt a terrible idea, it was that Sony never let us make burn our own discs. Name one popular media format that DOESNT have recordable media.
          • by hjf (703092)

            Name one popular media format that DOESNT have recordable media

            Vinyl.

            • Fine, name one non-deprecated media format that DOESNT have recordable media. For the record, Vinyl was a step back in this regard, as the wax cylinders that preceded them were user-recordable. They traded the ability to record for durability.(and other considerations)
          • UMD wasnt a terrible idea, it was that Sony never let us make burn our own discs. Name one popular media format that DOESNT have recordable media.

            Vinyl.

    • ...but also shoddy encoding and a high level of dynamic compression in iTunes.

      What? iTunes AAC encoder is one of the best around and it's MP3 encoder, whilst not as flexible as LAME, stacks up very well. As for the dynamic compression, I don't know what you're talking about - iTunes doesn't do anything to the music in the way of eq or compression when it encodes it. There is an option to normalise tracks, but it's off by default and it's done at playback, it doesn't change the data on disk.

      That all said, I've still gyt my MZ-R50 around which was one of the best MD walkmans ever made

  • media / reader (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:44AM (#36704826) Journal

    Since floppy discs have died I have missed having a medium which I could copy to then give away and which could be reused as easily.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      Glad i am not the only one. I still would love to see cheap 5x-10x packs of small usb sticks or similar. There are ways to format optical RW media to behave like floppies, but it never seemed to catch on. Likely because of the "rarity" of the drives and cost of media when introduced. And perhaps a lack of native support in Windows. Tho one format i tried had the "feature" of auto-installing the required driver on first insertion.

      • There are ways to format optical RW media to behave like floppies

        Thing is, CD-R is so cheap, ~10c per GB, that it doesn't really matter that they are single-use (not very green, but I suspect that Gaia has bigger fish to fry). Apart from the issues with packet-writing, RW discs have always been sufficiently more expensive to ensure that it made economical sense to use write-once discs.

        It always seems sacrilege, but I suppose those of us who were around in the 80s have registered CDs as objects of value, and haven't really registered the fact that they're now cheaper tha

    • 128 MB-2GB USB sticks from China are SUPER CHEAP. Cheaper then floppies were back in the day. We give these away to clients all the time. http://www.epromos.com/promotional-usb-flash-drives/_/N-13820+4294959514 [epromos.com]
    • by Artemis3 (85734)

      The flash memory format known as SD [wikimedia.org] might as well be. Just make sure a reader/writter is installed everywhere, like most netbooks have. Multicard readers are very cheap and come in 3 1/2" size to use floppy slots.

  • Sony botched it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guytoronto (956941) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @11:45AM (#36704836)
    I worked in the radio industry from 2003-2005. MiniDisc was huge then. Unfortunately, Sony in all their "stop piracy" wisdom made it almost impossible to transfer digital content OFF a disc. It was easy enough to record digital content onto the disc (I would hook it up to digital out on my cable box, and record hours of music), but if you wanted to transfer off the disc, you had to do it via the analogue headphone port, or you need a specialized high-end deck.

    That was the most frustrating part of the MiniDisc format. My $300 MD player/recorder was crippled. It would have been nice to record an event (plugged into the board at a wedding), and then dump the audio to my computer for editing. But nooooo....Sony didn't want to give me that flexibility.
    • That is interesting: I have a Sony Minydisk dEck of that wintage (2003) and it has a fibre digital out port. Though things might have changed immediately after this deck was released.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Yea, around the netMD/MDHD time the only devices that could do quick extraction of the audio was professional-market products.

        Reminds me of some plug system i read about that one would only find on similar such products today for handling digital video.

    • by BancBoy (578080)

      ... but if you wanted to transfer off the disc, you had to do it via the analogue headphone port, or you need a specialized high-end deck

      I wouldn't call the many SCMS "busting" boxes that you deployed along the SPDIF line to "disable" SCMS, a high end deck.

      The cost of a consumer MD deck plus a SCMS box was far far cheaper than the professional MD Decks that basically had that SCMS disabling functionality as a feature.

      • by adolf (21054)

        Indeed.

        A Zoltrix Nightingale sound card with an optional optical IO module (about $25 for the set, a decade or so ago) worked fine as an SCMS stripper. It really was a lousy analog sound card, but it did a good job of handling S/PDIF accurately, and had a hardware digital loopback function which specifically supported SCMS stripping.

        There were a few other CMI 8738-based cards back then which could behave similarly.

        But it really wasn't so important, anyway: You always get generational loss when treating Mi

    • Unfortunately, Sony in all their "stop piracy" wisdom made it almost impossible to transfer digital content OFF a disc.

      That was the problem I had with the format. The only reason that I bought the unit is was for quick recording in the field, mainly for my wife's work. It would have been handy for her to be able to record hour long interviews and then transfer them to our computer for editing down to an interesting 10 minutes or so. However having to import the recordings through the the analogue input made the unit a real hassle to use.

      I sent some query emails to Sony because I was sure that this must be a mistake, why wo

  • It was very much a 50's format. Hardly anyone had bought one for a decade. The format was losing popularity by the end of the 1970's. Even Vinyl outlasted the format.

    Compact cassette was still fresh in the mind, and minidisc was seen as a replacement recordable medium - a benefit not provided by CD.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @12:16PM (#36705098) Homepage

    Sony is a company that cannot balance its products and services against its media and publishing. It is torn between offering innovative products and services and keeping media and publishing happy. Microsoft attempted to please media and publishing interests and Vista was the result. Microsoft saw the error in this but Sony cannot simply because it is too entrenched in those interests because it embodies those interests.

    In general, I think it can be shown that media and publishing interests will never EVER be satisfied. The more they are given, the more they want and we all know inherently, there is no limit to greed. We see this in music, video and game entertainment industries all over. We all bemoan the changes they keep imposing but we, the consumer, are unable to influence their changes enough. Ideally, we vote with our dollars, but in reality, when we do, they arrive at the wrong conclusions and blame "piracy" and crap like that.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      The IP sector is based on rent seeking on non-rivalrous goods. This means that they can rent something out to a infinite number of customers at the same time. A bit like a apartment building with infinite capacity. But with infinite capacity it also means that anyone could find a place there, and the price of housing is based on scarcity and need. So they need to keep a sharp watch on all entryways so nobody on the inside allows anyone on the outside in.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by spire3661 (1038968)
      Microsoft certainly did NOT see the error. The same HDMI handshake bullshit that was in Vista is in Win7. GO ahead and play a DVD on Win 7 without a full HDMI path and watch Win 7 purposefully output a blocky picture. Microsoft also fucked with the audio mixing so it makes it alot harder to mix streams (to appease the RIAA which also breaks games like Bioshock and CoD4 that cant be launched without a mic attached now.)
    • by hjf (703092)

      I think Sony, as most japanese companies, works exclusively for the Japanese market. They see the "rest of the world" ass "less than relevant". Sony is big. Really really big in Japan. But so are other companies you know about but don't usually see in other markets (Mitsubishi for TVs come to mind). And the japanese public seems to be happy enough with what Sony offers them (or maybe they design their products based on Japanese tastes).

      And I know it's pretty much all over the spectrum of japanese products.

  • by Digital Pizza (855175) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @12:28PM (#36705184)

    When Minidisc was announced I thought it would be a perfect removable storage solution; at the time people were using Syquest drives for "large" (44 and 88 MB) removable storage, and they were pricy; there was a market waiting for something cheaper yet still reasonably fast. I think a Minidisc could hold 250MB or something like that - good storage at the time, relatively cheap, and would probably have been pretty reliable.

    However, Sony's anti-piracy worries made Minidisc inaccessible digitally - there were no Minidisc readers/writers and you could only use it for recording/playback of ANALOG audio!

    Soon Iomega came out with the very popular 100MB ZIP drives and Sony's window of opportunity closed - and we got to enjoy crappy Iomega quality and the infamous "Click-of Death".

    Sony does come out with cool tech sometimes, but their entertainment division screws it up every time. I guess Sony made their money from Minidisc, but they could have done so much more with it.

    • by master811 (874700)

      When Minidisc was announced I thought it would be a perfect removable storage solution; at the time people were using Syquest drives for "large" (44 and 88 MB) removable storage, and they were pricy; there was a market waiting for something cheaper yet still reasonably fast. I think a Minidisc could hold 250MB or something like that - good storage at the time, relatively cheap, and would probably have been pretty reliable.

      However, Sony's anti-piracy worries made Minidisc inaccessible digitally - there were no Minidisc readers/writers and you could only use it for recording/playback of ANALOG audio!

      Soon Iomega came out with the very popular 100MB ZIP drives and Sony's window of opportunity closed - and we got to enjoy crappy Iomega quality and the infamous "Click-of Death".

      Sony does come out with cool tech sometimes, but their entertainment division screws it up every time. I guess Sony made their money from Minidisc, but they could have done so much more with it.

      That's wrong. I still have my old MD player which could also record from a Digital Optical out on any CD player via Toslink cable.

      • Very few models could do that , and it wasnt until much later in the game, long after Iomega came onto the scene.
        • You couldn't do data via MiniDisc in any reasonable fashion, but you could certainly do digital audio.
        • by drwtsn32 (674346)
          Incorrect. I had the very first portable MD recorder and it had digital optical in/out. It was a feature on almost all portable units, and actually became less common in recent years when NetMD hit the scene.
        • by Vegeta99 (219501)

          Really? Because every model I ever owned was portable, from Sony and Sharp, and they ALL accepted TOSLINK-in.

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      All that Sony has left is the glory of the past. They're still culturally traumatized by the Betamax ruling and losing to VHS. They tried to bribe their other crippled child bluray to dominance but have failed again. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • I had a minidisc player in college that I purchased for two reasons. One, you could hold a few albums' worth of cds on a single disc, so you could carry around a larger library, and the ability to fast forward from track to track made it a lot more convenient than cassette recorders for putting together mixtapes but having the ability to skip and rewind songs. Those features were quickly overtaken by mp3 players, with even more accessibility.

    The second reason I liked the minidisc was that it had a mic
    • Actually, your iPod touch does have a mic input, that extra metal band on the headphone jack. It's how I use my G3 Ipod touch for skype, since it lacks the internal microphone. There's a tiny little microphone built into the wire of the original equipment headphone that comes with the iPod. That built in mic is the only thing that justifies the high price of the Apple brand original equipment earbuds that you can buy for a pricey $30.

  • What I miss most from my old MZ-R35, is the headphone remote. By modern standards it was large, with more controls than an iPod Shuffle, but everything was usable one handed by touch alone. The rewind/seek controls were a twist cap. I had a half hearted go at adapting one, but it would take more SMD fu than I can muster.

    So long Mini-Disc

    • The remotes Sony used were fantastic. I can remember back in the mid 90's looking at my (relatively) bluky MZ-R50 and the slender tube of a remote and thinking aloud to my mates that "one day this remote you see here will be the media player itself". Now, they're even smaller than that.

      The controls on the remote were fantastic as you say - one button on the very end and the twisting collar around it. Sony had a similar remote for car audio systems that would mount on the steering column too.

      The remote is pr

  • I had a MD player back when I was impersonating a gym rat. Kind of a pain to use, but more convenient than a cassette or CD Walkman. I liked that it ran on a single AA battery for a few hours and had a digital optical input. I think it was less than $100, but the discs were expensive and hard to find.

    A few years later I got into operating portable satellite ham radio. Most people record their QSOs because things happen too quickly to log contacts. The MD was easy to interface with my radio, had a way to mar

  • CDs were still a recent comer, and 8-track was fresh in the mind.

    More to the point, VHS vs. Betamax was still fresh in the mind. I seem to recall that DCC, DAT and Minidisc all popped up at around the same time (plus, digital audio recording had been one of the selling points of Video 8 before it got sidelined into camcorders) and it was clear that one or two of them would fail. Maybe people just decided to sit on their money and see who won the war. Turned out, none of them really did (although it was only DCC that, deservedly, sunk without trace).

  • seriously if sony had jumped on dvd type discs and had mp3 compatibility earlier I don't think the ipod would have taken over so quickly.

  • I think there was a niche generation that really really got into MD in a big way. Here in Europe there was a pretty sizeable take-up of it but it was largely word of mouth. I got a portable recorder in '96, within a year about half a dozen of my friends had similar machines. Far smaller than a portable CD or cassette player with great rechargeable battery life. The discs were small enough you could pocket dozens of them for sharing and swapping.

    Over the years the portable players got smaller and smaller.

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