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Last week Sony announced it’s producing its last MiniDisc components next month, marking the official end of the relationship between the technology megacorp and the format it launched in 1992 as a potential successor to the then-decade-old compact disc, which Sony co-owned with rival electronics giant Phillips. The MiniDisc consisted of a small magneto-optical disc contained in a cartridge that could hold over an hour’s worth of music, and which offered not only CD-quality playback but similar fidelity for recording and copying audio, making it a seemingly ideal format for a number of purposes. And yet, unless you’ve lived in Japan, are a home-recording enthusiast, or know a lot of audio geeks, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever laid eyes on one.
Home recording and various other forms of audio geekery were part of Sony’s plan for the format, but straightforward adoption by an unspecialized consumer base was the ultimate goal, and in most of the world the MiniDisc fared only slightly better than Phillips’s doomed Digital Compact Cassette on that count. Consumers seemed happy with the CD—and would until the MP3 became the dominant format another decade later—and were presumably uninspired to repurchase their record collections again when the audio was the same quality as CD and only slightly more portable.