The first MP3 player (1998)

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11 years ago Eiger Labs introduced the MPMan. It had a storage capcity of 32MB (about 10-20 songs) and sold for $69.

World's First MP3 Player (1998): MPMan 32MB (Via Microsiervos)


  1. It failed because everyone who saw one immediately tried to stand on it to see how much they weighed.

  2. It’s odd that the iPod isn’t a Sony device. From the transistor radio to the Walkman, Sony ‘owned’ music in your pocket for generations.

  3. I remember seeing these and thinking “20 songs? And you have to load it from your computer each time? What the fuck is the point? My new recordable minidisc player is much more practical and convenient!”

    I rarely admit this to people.

  4. @jfrancis #3:

    I suspect that may have to do with the fact that Sony was also trying to protect their CD distribution market at the time and saw MP3 players as a threat to their business model.

  5. @jfrancis – It’s mostly because Apple found a company in India that created and manufactured the original chip that really made the iPod possible and practical.

  6. I still own my EigerMan for nostalgia reasons. It also used those ancient flash memory cards that came in MB (the ones the size of postit with the giant gold contacts) so you could switch out different groups of songs. I essentially made 5 or 10 different playlists and swapped out the cards when I wanted something new. Ahh memories…

  7. I thought the Diamond Rio player was the first mainstream product (one that spawned the well-known lawsuit).

  8. I had one. I loved the thing. Before that converting mp3 -> burning cds -> listening to them…

    It was such a pain. That thing was drag and drop… carry to go. Didn’t need to make a mix cd every time you wanted to listen to new tunes.

    What’s wierd is … I still have my cd / mp3 player. When they made a cd player that you could listen to mp3 filled cds off of… it was better than any of the solid state memory solutions BY FAR. I loved that thing.

    Man technology changed so much in the past few years.

  9. I had one. its in my parents house. I believe it connected to the comp through the LPT port… had it hooked into my 1990 Bonneville via a tape adapter. I was so cool.

  10. @8: from the first sentence of the link YOU posted: “The Rio PMP300 was the second portable consumer MP3 digital audio player”

  11. i remember at some point around 1999 my mom hinted at a Rio as a x-mas gift.

    “How much memory does it have and how much does it cost?”

    “64mb and it’s $250”

    “oh i think i’ll stick with CD’s, mom. 64mb ain’t shit”

    “no no no it’ll be so cool!”

    “no, it wont”

    got a snowboard that year, THANK GOD.

  12. seeing how one can get an 8GB player for the same money (less, if you count inflation!) that’s a storage price change of $2.16/mb to $0.009/mb, or roughly 240 times cheaper.

    Course, it took ten friggin years

  13. I had a 64MB mpMan (still do somewhere) and loved it until the unobtainable rechargable batteries gave out. (odd things. Looked like flattened AAs) It was hideously expensive and waiting 30 minutes until the 11 or so songs were squeezed through the printer port into the machine was barely acceptable even then.

  14. I remember how excited I was when I got the Apex 600 DVD player that played mp3 CD’s. Hours of music on one disc. I also ran out and got the first portable MP3 Disc player which was from some unknown company headquartered in southeast Asia (can’t think of the name). Then came the first mainstream MP3 Disc player from Philips. The memories one can have as an early adopter. . . .

  15. I shelled out $250 for a 64 MB PMP300SE in the late nineties. Spent another $100 on an addtional 32MB of storage, for a total of 96 MB.

    Friggin’ loved the thing, honestly. It was tiny, and didn’t skip like the CD players of the time did. Oh, and the battery life was SO much better. I fit a few albums on at a time at 96-128 kbit, and swapped ’em out every few days.

    But the damn battery door broke on mine, too.

  16. My favorite early Mp3 player was the Rome mp3 player. It came in 64 or 128mb capacity and it was in the shape of a tape player. It could be used in a tape player or as a in your pocket mp3 player. I never owned one but can now spend a few bucks for a used one if they ever show up on ebay again.

  17. I actually HAD this MP3 player! It was great for bus rides to school. I still fondly remember the 12 songs I had in it! I laughed today when I remembered explaining to kids in my highschool classes that it wasn’t a radio player and that it played MP3’s. One girl said “M3 whats?”

  18. @jfrancis

    IIRC, Sony was late on the mp3 wagon because it was stubbornly trying to push its MiniDisc format.

  19. It’s amazing how far MP3 players have come. We look back on the originals and think, “Wow, how impractical. Why did anyone ever buy one?” but we forget what technology was like back then.

    It wasn’t long before that portable CD players had adopted anti-skip technology, and even that didn’t make mobile use of CDs practical.

    At the time these units came out, 64MB memory cards were considerably expensive, with 128MB likely being the largest available. USB hadn’t become popular yet, hence the far-slower parallel port connection. CD burners were becoming faster and more popular, but they still were still considered an upgrade, not a feature common to all models. Their speeds were still around 4x or 8x and CD-Rs were about $3 each.

    Nowadays so much has changed. USB 2.0 is on every computer, making it faster to transfer audio in MP3 format over USB than to burn the same amount of CDDA audio to a CD. Memory cards have standardized and are now in sizes exceeding 16GB — over 20x as much as fits on a CD. Batteries are smaller and longer lasting, full color displays are small and cheap, and the MP3 decoder chips can be had for less than a dollar.

    MP3 players were once impractical, but it was clear even then that all that we needed was better technology — the problems with CD were well understood and the technical innovations possible with memory devices were far greater than with CDs. Even as a new market, MP3 players were close to par with their nearly mature CD competitors.

    @#3: I’m not sure why Sony was late to the MP3 game, but I think part of it had to do with their insistence on proprietary formats. Even with their CD players, while others were supporting MP3 files, Sony required you to use their own ATRAC format. They eventually also allowed MP3 and WMA, but not before their competitors.

    They also pushed their MiniDisc players as competitions against MP3 players. As with ATRAC, it didn’t catch on for several reasons, and is now looked back on in much the same way as the 8-track.

    Sony did eventually get moving with their Walkman MP3 players, and managed to gain quite a bit of ground against early leaders like the Diamond Rio. So why did Apple’s iPod steal the show?

    If you ask me, there’s two reasons. Apple was among only a handful of companies (such as Diamond and Creative) who first introduced hard drive-based players. These were some of the first devices to really win over CD because of their much larger capacity. At first these new players didn’t catch on because they were big, expensive, and had poor battery life. The iPod, though, managed to steal the show from the others. Part of the reason was because it was one of the more reliable ones and had better battery life, but I think part of it was also the demographic that follows Apple. While it was mostly only the nerdy early adopters that tried hard drive-based players (due to their high cost), Apple has always had a following of people willing to pay high prices for premium products. I think this lead to a position where, of the demographic who would buy such a product, a significant number were Apple devotees and were willing to invest in it. It also didn’t hurt that the iPod’s navigation was much better than their competitors’.

    For its time, the iPod was far-and-away the only option worth buying. Nowadays you can find 10 other players that look and feel identical, but the fact that Apple took such an early lead and set the trend has given them market dominance, and they’ve only solidified that with the iPhone being another trend-setting device.

    Of course, Sony was once the major player in portable audio with their tape and CD Walkman, and yet they have been reduced to being a bit player. If another company came out with something as ground-breaking as the iPod or iPhone, they could dethrone Apple just as Apple dethroned Sony and Diamond. This could happen sooner than we think — Apple is already showing a lack of innovation with recent iPods and iPhones. Since the first iPod, they have been evolving quickly from generation to generation, but this last generation seems awfully similar to the last. They may be running out of steam, enough that an unknown company could come out of left-field with their new ground-breaking technology. On the other hand, every other company is still trying to keep up with Apple, and with the recent markets, few companies are investing in R&D, so we may well see Apple maintain its supremacy even in the face of stagnancy.

  20. im sure people of the day were like, oh wow, sixty four megabytes? that’s like 45 floppy disks!

    on the other hand, CD’s had been out for a decade or so and have always held 700mb. the real innovation was in compressing audio into a couple megs per song. in a world devoid of compression, even the average iPod (what like, 160gb?) would only hold 200 albums (something like that amount was a selling point of the original 5GB iPod)

    if in 1998 someone would have told me i could take all 4 gigs of my hard drive and put it onto a chip the size of my smallest fingernail, and that a gig of RAM would be available for $20 in 10 short years, i’d have said woah buddy, don’t get too ambitious.

  21. I’m sorry, chaps, but mini-discs, CDs and MP3s be damned.
    I had a portable record player that played both 7″ and 12″ vinyl, plus at a stretch, 10″ shellac. Now that was the cutting edge of technology: a whole 20 minutes of songs on one side of some discs.
    Miss it…

  22. Seeing this reminds me of conversations I have at work. Literally some of the electronic devices we work with are older than some of the employees that work for our company. And our main computer…my cell phone is smarter/more powerful.

  23. back then I did not jump on the bandwagon for those small thingies .. but then came the pjbox … afaik the first HD driven mp3 player with quite a nice screen and manageable interface (unlike the Archos i bought a bit later) ..

    it was thick as a brick, but still fit my suit pocket and I yearn for all the yoko kano music I had on it …

    Last time I tried if it still works … i acted strangely .. but what do you expect from a 10 year old HD

  24. But everyone “knows” that Apple invented the first MP3 player. First computer. First telephone. First electron.

    In the Beginning, there was Apple.

    And Apple looked upon the world…

  25. Hopefully by 2018 articles like this will carry the headline “The first digital music file player” as we will have abandoned that bloody lossy format!!!

    (Even if you don’t agree with the sound difference you must see that sooner or later compression on music files becomes pointless)

  26. @40 (myself) Actually we should probably just imagine that by 2028 whilst listening to our mobile lossless streaming multimedia magical gadget how we ever got by with just a few gig of music. Ah, those were the days!

  27. Much like Sony, I too stubbornly held onto MiniDisc recordables when I saw this thing, and the Rio a bit later. And then the Creative.

    It was only when Apple released an MP3 player that the fanboy in me freaked and I had to get one.

    @ Bobba Fett Diop: I rarely admit that.

  28. My first portable music player was a (click click)
    2-XL 8-track player. Interactive quiz games (click click)
    and played regular albums.

    I’d love to get hold of another one (click click)
    and install a media player PC into it.

    note to you kids: that’s the sound of the 15 minute limit
    of the 8-track format, switching to one of the other 4 stereo tracks. Ruined many a decent album with quick fades as the time ran out on the track.

  29. #45: The regretted missed purchase when the iPod was first announced was the $15/share Apple stock.

    They had just gone through the Newton, so it’s understandable that there was doubts.

  30. I’m sure that I had an MP3 player that was shaped like a pen that was from this era, but I thought it was certainly before 2000. I’m not convinced this is the first.

  31. I seem to recall large hard disk based mp3 players with tiny screens around this time. Maybe it was shortly after this though. I know one this if for sure. Apple didn’t invent the disk based audio player.

  32. I remember buying an early-gen Samsung Yepp rather than a Minidisc player (the horrifying choices we had to make on a daily basis). It had 64mb of space as I recall, enough for an album and a bit (maybe) at the realistic bitrates of the day. But it connected up using the parallel port – I think a USB connector was a ‘coming later’ optional accessory – and consequently I changed the tracks far less often than I used to on my tape Walkman. I had a Minidisc a few months later, which is a whole other entry in my Big Book of Ill-Considered Purchases.

  33. Man I’m not over MiniDiscs yet. I have an MZR-55 and a recording deck. The body is all metal (has taken many hits like a champ), and it’s a better size for pockets than an iPod.

  34. Actually I believe this is the 2nd MP3 Player. The 1st one was the MPMan F10 from Saehan Information Systems through Eiger Labs.

  35. 10-20 songs? i’d say more like 5-6 songs – an average quality (192 kb/s) song is around 5mb at least

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