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By Spring 1990 Sony's engineers in Japan had planned a digital replacement for analogue cassette. Mini Disc would be a 6.4cm disc which used digital compression to record 74 minutes, as much music as a 12 cm CD.
Buffer memory would let a portable player keep on playing even if the readout laser was jogged off track. There would be two types of disc; one mass-produced by pressing for pre-recorded music, and the other a blank that used magneto-optical technology for home recording.
In November 1992 Sony hired a London night club to "unleash" Mini Disc onto the public. "The future starts now" said Sony.
The first portable MD recorder would barely fit an overcoat pocket. Its battery ran for only 60 minutes while recording, and 75 minutes for playback. The recorder was L500, with only 60 minute blanks which cost £8.99. To keep the record companies happy, there was no digital input. So users could not make a direct digital copy from a CD.
Pre-recorded MDs cost as much as CDs. Discs and players soon disappeared from the shops.
MD sold well in Japan, however. Hifi systems had a built-in MD recorder designed to dub from CD. People made an MD compilation of favourite CD tracks and play it on a vest-pocket player.
Sony re-launched MD in the West, as a recorder for copying CDs onto blanks, not a player for prerecorded discs.
But MD flopped - partly because it was in direct competition with Philips' and Panasonic's DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) which did much the same with tape.
There is nothing like a format war to kill a new idea.