Essay Winners: # 1 2 3 4.

Will the Minidisc survive?

Andrea Winchester
May, 2000

The MiniDisc will survive, because people want a portable music player with a memory longer than their most recent playlist.

The MD has that, and more. One diskettte offers 74 minutes of sound memory for a mere two or three dollars, considerably less expensive than its most recent rival on the market. With the MD, your portable memory is limited only by the number of discs you are wiling to carry, not the memory chip of your recording device. And given the affordability and size of a minidisc, that's a lot of sound.

The Minidiskette is small, hardy and portable. Their plastic case protects the little round treasure trove of tunes inside and you can easily pack a dozen or more hours of music into a small purse or fanny pack. Conventional CDs have to be treated with kid gloves; minidisc diskettes can be tossed in the glove box.

The new memory-chip players (that play only mp3s) have a limited memory and when they're full, they're full. Sure, you can erase and re-record your favorite playlist. Again. And again. The next thing you know, you're feeling like the head doctor in the emergency room at the hospital: which one of these tunes is expendable? Which one has enough life in it to stay? What started out as a musical treat has become a source of disappointment as you find yourself deciding which track you have to erase and leave home, instead of what you get to take along. That creates a poverty mentality, and who wants to feel poor when it comes to music?

The MD gives you quick and convenient access to your whole sound inventory. Contrast that to the mp3 player, that doles out your tunes in little increments like an automated teller machine that has put you on a strict budget while your wealth sits inaccessible in the bank vault.

The MD will survive because people want to listen to a wide variety of sound sources and file types, not just one music format. A minidisc recorder will record and play a lecture, a tape cassette, a CD track, an interview, your child's spontaneous story weaving, the laughter from your party, a radio program from the internet, the sound track of the movie you went to last night, the best man's toast at your wedding, your original music composition, your first poetry recital, and your dog singing along as you howl in the shower. Splice all of those together on your MD and create a sound collage that a hundred monkeys with an mp3 player couldn't devise in a million years. Now that's flexibility. The minidisc format actually stimulates your creativity with the possibilities it provides. Now you get to be the mix master, limited only by your own imagination and whimsy.

The MD will survive, because people want a playlist that is as playful as they are.

Creating a playlist is an aesthetic process. It's fun. You peruse your collection of music titles, and ask the auditory equivalent of the question that a diner asks while looking at the menu: "What am I hungry for?"

Maybe you want slowly simmered soul food that will stick to your ribs while you sing along in the car. Maybe you want something classical to carry you elegantly through your work day. Maybe you crave a light series of pop tunes to snack on. With the Minidisc, it's all there at your fingertips, in the variety that matches your infinite and varied tastes.

Consider the meager menu of lesser technologies. It was a great dish when you ordered it, but now that the memory chip is full, yesterday's leftovers just aren't as appetizing. What's more, the kitchen is closed, and there's no drive-through window to visit while you are on the road.

Minidisc to the rescue. Want something spicy? How about those new salsa tunes? Grab the disc and pop it in. You loved those dark moody flavors you enjoyed last night, but now the sunshine is out and you've got a yen for something with some kick to it. Grab another disk. The a la carte menu is endless and you can nibble on audio hors 'douvres to your heart's content. Yum.

The Minidisc player will survive, because it gives you genuine choice and flexibility. It lets you grab what you want and take it with you.

Don't be fooled by technology that promises more choice than it delivers. A limited memory device creates a dilemma similar to that of the proverbial chimpanzee who got trapped by the banana inside a jar. The chimp could reach his paw through the mouth of the jar and grab the banana, but the prize in his fist had become a trap: he has to let go of the banana to free his hand from the jar.

An mp3 player tries to solve this problem by putting two bananas inside the jar. Now the chimp has to let go of one banana to get the other one. Some solution!

The limited-memory device offers a false sense of choice, and a false choice is no choice at all. With the MD player, you can just keep grabbing more of your favorite tunes.

Get an MD player and go bananas! It's a jungle out there, and the portable sound technology that survives will be flexible, dynamic, and most of all, fun. The Minidisc: it's about Memory, Flexibility, and Choice.

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