Remembering MiniDisc, the Audio Format that Flopped in America

Chris Higgins
Getty Images
Getty Images / Getty Images

Sony introduced the MiniDisc (MD) format in 1992 in an attempt to replace the CD. MD was a nice format because it was digital and recordable, so it could functionally replace CDs and cassettes in one package. But in the United States, MD never really caught on as a consumer technology. Why not? The answer is complex, and it's hard to pinpoint a single point of failure.

In the 45-minute video below, we get a detailed history lesson on MD and its modest success around the world. You get to see how bulky the original players were—and the fact that early rechargeable batteries could barely play back one MiniDisc, at a time when portable CD players ran for many hours on a few AA batteries. The format was around for several decades though, and matured quickly...but also began facing competition from MP3 players mid-way through its life.

Whether you remember MiniDisc or not, this is a terrific video essay on recording tech history. Enjoy: