In 1991 the minidisc was developed by SONY as a replacement for cassette tapes. It uses magneto-optical discs similar to the familiar floppy disk format but a little smaller. Each disk can hold about 80 minutes of audio. The sound is encoded on the disc as digital data using ATRAC encoding which is similar to (but not the same as) mp3.
Sony licensed the MD technology to other manufacturers, with JVC, Sharp, Pioneer, Panasonic and others all producing their own MD systems.
HOW IT WORKS
The disc is permanently housed in a cartridge (68 × 72 × 5 mm) with a sliding door, similar to the casing of a 3.5" floppy disk. This shutter is opened automatically by a mechanism upon insertion. The audio discs can either be recordable (blank) or premastered. Recordable MiniDiscs use a magneto-optical system to record data. A laser heats one side of the disc to its Curie point, making the material in the disc susceptible to a magnetic field. A magnetic head on the other side of the disc alters the polarity of the heated area, recording the digital data onto the disk. Playback is accomplished with the laser alone: taking advantage of the Faraday effect, the player senses the polarisation of the reflected light and thus interprets a 1 or a 0. Recordable MDs can be recorded on repeatedly; Sony claims up to one million times.
WHAT ITS GOOD FOR
Today all of the minidisc formats have been superceded by memory systems which are more robust lighter less energy-hungry and have no moving parts. For listening to music buy an MP3 player instead. There are also plenty of voice quality recorders. Becasue of this there are plenty of minidisk recorders coming up for sale at very reasonable prices.
With few exceptions MP3 players do not have high quality recording capability, and despite searching I have been unable to find any that offer a simple one-button record.
Record a concert using an MP3 player and the sound from piccolo and violin will be really badly distorted and useless.
All minidisk formats support recording across the whole audio spectrum at near-cd quality or better.
This makes the minidisk ideal for recording live audio and also for field recording sounds from equipment such as bat detectors.
With its small size and easy record controls its also good for recording interviews and the like
minidisc player / recorder walkman
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8 November 2008
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