What happened to MiniDisc?
Do you remember the Sony MiniDisc and MiniDisc player? Ever wondered what happened to those cool little discs? Well, the short answer to this question is that MiniDisc was sort of a casualty of the never ending format wars. Just like betamax tapes falling to the rise of the VHS tape, the MiniDisc was never able to capture enough of an audience to become a major format.
Remembering The MiniDisc
The Sony MiniDisc was released in 1992 as a re-writable disc format for storage and audio. It was offered with a capacity of 60, 74, and 80 minutes of digitized audio. Unlike a compact disc (CD) the MiniDisc is protected in a cartridge much like a floppy disk! MiniDiscs are small enough to fit in your pockets. Their exact dimensions were 72mm by 68mm by 5mm thick (under 3 inch by 3 inch by 1/4 inch thick). Like other formats, they need to be played in their own MiniDisc players.
Arguably the MiniDisc was the superior format option as it evolved to match CD quality (with the Hi-MD), it was available in a smaller size than a CD (you could fit in your pocket), and a protective case (no scratched CDs). But as history proves time and time again, the better technology doesn’t always translate to winning market share.
MiniDisc was popular among musicians and audiophiles. It gained a following in Japan and the UK. Record labels and producers were slow to put out albums on the MiniDisc format, which is one of the reasons it suffered to gain market share. Another reason was that MiniDisc struggled to gain momentum in the United States. It was a bit more expensive to get started and when writable CDs (CD-Rs) dropped in price, it made things especially hard to compete in the US.
Then came the MP3 player. MP3 players hit the markets in the late 90’s and consumers were more ready to embrace this new format-less medium than they were to try anything else on the market. The iPod came out in 2001 and that pretty much put the final nail in the coffin for all other physical formats.
Today, MiniDiscs and MiniDisc players are still sought after by collectors and audiophiles. MiniDiscs have a forgotten futuristic look and feel to them. The MiniDisc was even used in the popular film, The Matrix as the medium of choice for NEO. Specific MiniDisc players and albums still sell for quite lot on secondary markets like eBay. The MiniDisc format is also still an option for musicians and artists to publish music on. Boutique record labels and some artists still put out new albums on MiniDisc.
The MiniDisc will live on in history as a player in the format wars and an example of a great idea falling to a cheaper but not necessarily better one. Although it never gained major market share, it did gain the hearts and minds of some audio nerds and collectors and continues to be used by enthusiasts, artists, and boutique record labels.