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MP3 Players

The 10th anniversary of the MP3 player

March 1998 saw the birth of the portable music world as we know it today, with the launch of the MPMan F10 -- the world's first portable MP3 player

In 1998, the late Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi was born. In the same year, Robert B. Laughlin won the Nobel prize in physics for his explanation of the fractional quantum Hall effect -- a joint success shared with Daniel C. Tsui and Horst L. Störmer. But closer to my heart, 1998 saw the birth of the first portable MP3 player. It was Eiger Labs' MPMan F10, and it had just 32MB of on-board flash memory.


Happy birthday, MPMan! Many happy returns. Oh.

With its tiny LCD screen, its parallel port and its little NiMH battery, the MPMan was the first taste of things to come in the world of digital music. It was first seen at CeBIT, the Hannover-based electronics show in Germany, which, as you'll notice by sporadic coverage of this year's show, had nothing that special on display this year.

The company behind MPMan -- Korea's Saehan Information Systems -- was one of the companies that joined SDMI, a group we highlighted this week as part of our vapourware feature. This 'Secure Digital Music Initiative' was an attempt to tackle music piracy by means of DRM, but suffered what we call 'Epic Fail Syndrome', and caved in 2001, by which time Apple's iPod was beginning its epic road to consumer dominance.

And now with 160GB iPods, 32GB flash-based MP3 players, and hard disk-boasting H.264 video players, we can celebrate everything MPMan initiated. So rock on, MPMan. The recording industry despised you, the public didn't buy into you, and Apple stole your skin. But no one can steal your right to the crown of 'History's Biggest Middle Finger to the Music Industry', and for that we salute you. -Nate Lanxon