Minidiscs: Style Isn’t Obsolete

4 May

Recently I did some restoration on my old VW. Giving consideration to its aftermarket sound system, it occurred to me that if I was crazy enough to install an in-dash minidisc player in my ’72 VW Beetle back in 2001 — more or less boarding a sinking ship — nothing is stopping me from rekindling my minidisc love now.

TDK Bit Club Minidiscs from Japan
(I made this gif tonight, a tiny love note to minidisc fandom)

I took a look through some of my old minidiscs and discovered the most awesome package of minidiscs I remember owning. These are TDK Bit Club, which is the most stylish brand of minidiscs that I’m aware of — although minidiscs are pretty damn stylish in general.

TDK Bit Club Minidiscs from JapanAbove: All four minidiscs in the package

TDK Bit Club Minidiscs from Japan - Package front and back
Above: Package front and back (I still have one precious unopened 4-pack)

I don’t know if physical media is completely dead, but minidiscs share a stunted past with Betamaxx and Laserdisc — formats that hardly blossomed before the world moved ahead without them. When I madly chose to install a minidisc player in my 30-year-old Volkswagen, it was already an awesome-not-good idea.

But minidiscs are simply cool, right? This is partially because of Sony’s amazing commitment to style and distinctiveness, which persists even today when the market adores Apple’s think-different-buy-same gadget homogeny.

Besides Sony’s attention to original style, the diversity of minidisc fashion may owe to the medium’s popularity outside the US. The Japanese market, where minidiscs were apparently more mainstream, embraces colorful technology. (Americans? Beige, tan, gray, silver, black, white … and the occasional “slate”, which is pretty much denim.)

I have more minidisc players and cool discs I may photograph and post another day. In the meantime, thanks, Sony, for your effort. Let’s all take a moment to envision a world that never was, where digital audio was a little quirkier and style reigned.

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3 Responses to “Minidiscs: Style Isn’t Obsolete”

  1. Derrick Johnson May 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Great article. As I write I’m taping a cd on minidisc via my RH1. I also have a NH 1 and numerous Hi-MD discs. Keeping MD alive.

  2. Matt June 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    It is hard to believe that MiniDisc will be 20 years old in September.

    I loved the format, and still do! I jumped onto the ‘MiniDisc bandwagon’ in 1995, as a means to carry my music about with me when I was in the RAF. A perfect piece of kit, capable of taking knocks, drops and grotty temperatures, all in it’s stride! It let carry a little bit luxury and home-comfort in my pocket. It used AA batteries (available anywhere in the world) and I was able to update my music, even when I was away from my computer.

    Anyone who grew up with cassette tapes will know of the enjoyment of the ‘mix tape’. Making compilations, funky labels, etc.. is far more fun than just ‘dragging and dropping’ computer files!

    There’s something nice and comforting about having music on a physical media. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s not subject to DRM, doesn’t pick up bugs, doesn’t require frequent ‘sync’ updates. I used to carry a couple of cheap players (one in each kit-bag) and the discs in bunches. When I was away for months, the effects of theft or damage was less severe, I didn’t have my ‘eggs in one basket’, on a player that needed sync-updates or a means of charging!

    The technology is dated, but the sound quality can still compete with today’s players. Decks and portable player/recorders can be picked up second-hand from eBay at obscenely cheap prices, and brand-new discs are still available.

    I want my music separate from a computer. I don’t want my purchased music limited to 3 copies. I don’t my music exposed to viruses. I don’t my entire collection in one place.

    Long live the MiniDisc. It’s cheap. It’s retro. It’s excellent quality.

  3. Expand-Dong(le) March 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    long live minidiscs, i love them, finally a physic format in a palm of my hand and no a limited flash memory error-exposed and battery-eater audio player

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