Cybernaut 

Burned by progress

For my birthday last year, my girlfriend eased my trepidation over turning 30 with an incredible gift – a brand new Sony NetMD MiniDisc player. Cobalt blue, if you’re wondering.

Although iPods may seem to be the way to go these days, they are still more expensive than MiniDiscs, you still have to charge them and need a computer to fill them up. As for me, I can record off any device using audio cables and when the rechargeable battery runs low I can simply swap it for another one. It doesn’t skip, and thanks to Sony’s new ATRAC format, I can record up to 320 minutes of music on Long Play 4 – and I think it sounds better than most compressed music formats, including the much heralded MP3.

That’s a lot of music. It’s about four to six regular CDs worth of music, and that’s enough to get me through most days.

My player never skips, and it’s easy and fast to load CDs onto MiniDiscs using the NetMD software.

Also, I confess that I’m something of a Luddite when it comes to technology. Although I like the idea of the Apple iPod with all of those gigs and gigs of music at my fingertips, I still like the physical presence of discs. I can’t explain why I like discs when I can store my entire CD collection on one iPod, but I do. One disc holds my interviews at work. Another has my Beastie Boys collection. Another is a punk mix that I like to take snowboarding and to the gym. Another has mellow music that I like to listen to while reading.

There is only one real benefit I can think of, other than cost, for not getting an iPod:

If my MiniDisc player should ever fall, or if I should ever fall on my MiniDisc player, and it should break, I’ll at least have my discs with all of my music intact. I won’t have to go through the whole process of recording them all over again when and if I buy a replacement player.

Yep, love the MiniDisc.

Still, I can’t help but feel a little hamstrung when I read a report that Sony has created a new line of mini discs that can hold 40 hours of music, rather than the current 80 minutes at regular play. With a compressed format, you could stretch that 40 hours to 160 – almost seven full days of continuous music.

It’s a fact of life that things become obsolete. The top desktop PC of two years ago can’t hold a candle to the low-end PC of today, in performance or price. But going from 80 minutes to 40 hours? That’s 30 times more music, which represents the kind of groundbreaking technological leap that only comes around once a generation. Imagine if your 2Ghz processor became a 60 Ghz processor overnight, or your 40 Gig hard drive could be replaced with a 1,200 GB drive.

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