RIP Minidisc

Sony finally calls it a day on Minidisc.

Although pretty much all of the Radio Clash podcasts from 2006-2010 were recorded on Hi-MD minidisc (a RH910) and had several earlier MD recorders (a blue MZ-R91 a Sharp in the late 90s), I’m not surprised. The original nor relaunched formats never took off in the mass market, and lost ground in the niche recording markets due to Sony’s silly approach to closed systems such as DRM and encryption in ATRAC3plus, lack of support for Linux and a delay in supporting modern OS systems (if you used ATRAC it meant you were reliant on their software, and took a while to update on OSX, and Sonicstage was very buggy).

I stopped recording on Minidisc when I lost the whole of RC 190 due to a power cut in the middle of a transfer which meant the whole show was lost for good. Something that would have been partly or fully recoverable on old Minidisc, but Hi-MD’s ATRAC3plus is encrypted, which meant if there’s any problem with the disc then you can’t recover any of it. Sony refused to release the encryption keys even in the final days of the format, hence limited Linux support for ATRAC3plus (unless someone managed to reverse engineer it in the end?)

Maybe Sony will do the honest thing and open up the encryption and allow people to transfer out their recordings losslessly now from ATRAC3plus, and help the enthusiast community keep the legacy of recordings alive, but I’m not holding my breath. Shame because for a while Minidisc offered great portable quality for the DIY and professional recordist; and probably still the best microphone auto gain circuitry ever (something about recordings on MD that seems to bring out the best on certain microphones, none of this harsh ‘booming’ saturation, but a gentle gain curve that still sounds good) but they hobbled their own format keeping it closed and proprietary.

I now own and record on a Sony PCM M10, which records solid state as WAV and none of this silly proprietary format business. I hope Sony have learned their lesson over that, but again I won’t hold my breath…

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