Dead Media: Optical Disc

For our first dossier in the dead media research studio, Media Archaeology, Jason Lariviere, Daniel Cohen, and I investigated first generation optical disc technology. Specifically looking at the LaserDisc, VCD, and MiniDisc, we sought to draw cultural and sociological insight from the emergence of these media artifacts. Our findings are published here on the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication’s Dead Media Archive. Following is the introduction of my section on the MiniDisc.

“The early history of sound recording makes visible the ways in which new media emerge as local anomalies that are also deeply embedded within the ongoing discursive formations of their day, within the what, who, how, and why of public memory, public knowledge, and public life.”
—Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New

In May of 1991, Sony Corporation announced the MiniDisc system, to be released the following year, as the company’s proposed successor to its Walkman personal cassette player. The format boasted many of the features of its older sibling, the compact disc—random access, high quality audio, and material durability—with a more portable form factor, significant shock resistance, and the ability to record sound. The MiniDisc, or MD, did all of this without compromising the amount of music that could fit on a single disc in a 68 × 72 × 5 mm cartridge.

Geographic uptake diverged greatly between Asia and the West. The MD market appears to have peaked around 2000 and then faded away as the MP3 player became ascendant.

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