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Sony DD-1EX Electronic Book Player (vam.ac.uk)
39 points by mattowen_uk 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Techmoan did a video on these, pretty interesting:


I wanted one of these so bad back in the day. Never had the cash though unfortunately.

It's an interesting observation that there wasn't really a viable market for an ebook device with large-capacity, expensive write-only media - it's not that publishers didn't want to sell e-books, or that readers didn't want a library-on-a-CD, but that there was no good way to sell individual books since customers couldn't burn their own CDs, and didn't want to carry 50 CDs with them.

> It's an interesting observation that there wasn't really a viable market for an ebook device with large-capacity, expensive write-only media

Or even, perhaps more relevantly, with read-only media.

Encarta could have been the killer app.

Ah, my favourite Youtube channel - highly recommend TechMoan!

I thought I had a decent knowledge of obsolete audio and video formats until I started watching his channel.

It's fantastic. Also nice to see someone doing that kind of thing on YouTube with a local (well, to me) accent.

Sony invented a gazillion of all kinds of disk, tape, and cartridge formats, all to make people buy new hardware by forcing obsolescence.

And then... came the Internet.

Parents once brought me an MD player from Japan back in nineties. We bought dozens of MD cartridges, but only 3 ever worked.

Orienting in between at least 3 visually undistinguishable MD cartridge types was very frustrating, and near impossible for non-Japanese.

I loved my mini-disc player. They somehow felt more futuristic than than the better alternatives. It's too bad there was virtually no support for them in the US.

Early minidisc players/recorders will forever be a unique and coveted item for some folks. Sony made a curious 'mistake' in those early units where they added recording functionality AND a fully digital S/PDIF input with zero copy protection or restrictions. You could plug an early portable minidisc recorder straight into a digital audio output from a high end (at the time) CD player to make digitally bit-perfect rips of CDs, or plug it into the digital output of a mixer board to make great live music recordings. You could even get a minidisc drive for computers and copy off your bit-perfect music rips to upload and share on the internet. Very, very quickly Sony realized their mistake and later minidisc players removed S/PDIF inputs (but left the outputs). Nowadays HDMI, etc. have all baked in copy protection to the wire protocols. So for a very short period of time minidisc was this odd little thing that was an enormous threat to the future of the music industry.

Minidisc compression wasn't lossless. I'm pretty sure CD rips on computers existed before then.

Objectively, ATRAC was worse than CD as a compressed format. But it was actually very cleverly done, and it sounded better than MPEG audio at the same bit rate.

What killed the format was Sony's aggressive policy of forcing you to use their software.

I had an MD player, but I only used it to play blank MDs on which I had made mix tapes from my CDs. Many MD players had write ability, and (though it was a fairly little-known fact) many portable CD players had optical-out. You just needed to buy an optical cable and connect it between your CD player and the MD player.

Thats funny to hear, I had a minidisc player as a young tech neophyte in North America and never had compatibility issues, or even until now knew there were variants of md.

The variants came along a good few years after MD hardware went on sale in the US - the first MiniDisc player went on sale in the US in September 1992, while NetMD wasn't introduced until 2001 and Hi-MD in 2004.

With the original iPod also introduced in 2001, and MD's high media cost and lack of pre-recorded releases having kept it firmly in its original niche, I think probably most MD adopters in the US didn't have compatibility problems for the simple reason that, by the time those problems became possible, we weren't really bothering with MiniDisc any more anyway.

That said, NetMD was just a different format on the same media, and a line of players capable of transferring audio from a computer digitally via USB. You can't use a NetMD-formatted disc in a non-NetMD player, but you can still reformat and use the disc in an older player, and a NetMD player will play back discs using the older format. The real compatibility barrier is Hi-MD, which uses a totally different media formulation in order to reach its ~1GB capacity; as far as I know, Hi-MD media, however formatted, can't be used in any non Hi-MD player.

(Even for latter-day MiniDisc aficionados such as myself, that's still not a huge barrier, because not much Hi-MD media was ever made, and you can expect to pay $60 or more for a single disc today. Hi-MD players are likewise rare and pricey, so I suspect most folks who get into the medium for hobby reasons end up sticking with NetMD.)

You forgot MD Data, and MD Data2, and their assorted list of supported file formats.

Some played MP3, some did different incompatible versions of ATRAC, some did raw PCM packed in two different containers.

And there was even a digital videocamera using Data2.

Panasonic MD was also barely compatible with Sony's one. Record in one, but not play in other.

I don't think MD-Data ever made it to consumer availability in the US, but you're not entirely wrong with regard to fragmentation. That said, Sony seemed to do a pretty good job of keeping it under control in the US prior to the release of NetMD in 2001, but I suspect "seemed" is the operative word there, and that it had less to do with effective management of the medium on Sony's part and more with the whole thing being an incredibly tiny niche in the US for its entire lifespan.

Sony certainly doesn't have a good enough record on avoiding media fragmentation generally, that any benefit of the doubt seems warranted here...

Well, I spend my childhood in Far East Russia. Vladivostok, and Blagoveschensk primarily.

Japan was all over that place.

I also remember DAT players. People say they were a commercial failure in Japan.

Players themselves were a frequent sight on sale, but tapes were near impossible to find, let alone ones with pre-recorded music.

And they were prone to tearing in humid climate. They were scotch taped, and superglued 100 times over, that's how rare they were.

I still have a Sony minidisc player. I haven’t used it in years. Exquisite piece of mechanical engineering.

Then came the iPods and the rest is history.

i'm still stumped that a rewritable 50MB+ thing was available before win95 .. if Sony pushed hard on the computer data it could have been something

I'm still using my MD player. It will work forever.

I've got a couple of these bad boys in my retro tech collection. I've only got a couple "books" and fewer in English. The books are much harder to find than working players, at least in the US.

If you're thinking of getting one I don't recommend it. Finding a properly working model is non-trivial and once you do finding content is harder. At the end of the day you've got a hard to use dictionary.

I didn't find out these details until I owned them. However I have a soft spot for Sony's industrial design from the 90s. I've got a couple of these, Pyxis GPS receivers, and some Hi-8/Digital-8 pieces. I think they just look cool and some I lusted after when I was younger. It's way more techno looking than their 70s and 80s ID and way cooler than their post-2000 retro-esque ID.

Same, I love 90s peak Sony. It is amazing the amount of products they released. They had an offering for every niche.

And that was their downfall.

Nobody cared for a gazillion cartridges, sticks, disks, drives etc if it all sounded exactly the same in the end.

This made me nostalgic for a 1990s Sony shortwave radio that I had as a kid. It replaced a much larger probably 1980s era radio that my grandfather passed on to me. By comparison this 1990s one was magically miniature - and very similar design to book reader:


Thanks for the link to that site. I expect I'll waste most of this evening looking through it.

It brought back memories of my SWL days. My favorites were Radio Sofia, Radio Habana (when playing music), and RNZI. I even sent away for an RNZI t-shirt, and was wearing it in Pennsylvania one day when a Maori recognized it and came running across the room to ask me about it.

I still listen to RNZ Pacific online, but it's not the same.

Oh man that's a looker.

*Sony desire rising*

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