A digital MP3 player is a portable audio player that supports playback of the MP3 file format and can store and play other files as well such as images, videos and various supported formats of audio. Its storage is on flash memory, the original developed format, or hard drive, which allows for greater storage capacity. Digital MP3 players started to be released soon after the MP3 format became widespread as a music and sound file format and they were the follow-ups of analog players such as cassette players, and of later bulky CD players.
The first digital MP3 player was mass-produced by a Korean company called Saehan Information Systems, who sold the flash-based MPMan player in April 1998. The American versions of this player, known as Eiger MPMan F10 and F20 were distributed in North America by Eiger Labs. These players had a 32 MB capacity – which is equivalent to holding just 6 songs. A few months later, Diamond Multimedia released the Rio PMP300, also with 32 MB storage. It sold quite well and thus became popular. The first hard drive-based portable media player was created by Compaq and sold as the Personal Jukebox PJB-100 in 1999 by HanGo Electronics. The 4.8 GB storage size of this player boasted a 1200 songs capacity, considered huge for its time. The following year, Creative, Cowon and Archos all released their versions of the ‘Jukebox’ player. The first Apple Ipod came out in 2001 with 5 GB hard drive but only compatible with Macs, until the second generation release which endorsed Windows and caused it to gain popularity and eventually dominate the MP3 player market. Many players had color screens and video capability before the Ipods ever came incorporated with these features, yet they remain the most popular til date.
Since the MP3 file format became widely popular soon after it was created due to its easy use, media players began to be identified as MP3 players even when capable of playing other audio files. Nowadays, the digital MP3 player is also often capable of playing video files in several formats, one can store and view pictures and other documents on it, connect to other devices through Bluetooth, browse the Web through WiFi integration, access and use all kinds of mobile-type applications and play games on it, and of course playback hundreds or thousands of music files for long hours. One of the most popular of these electronic players is the Apple Ipod series which has won over people because of its sleek design and easy user interface.
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Some people may remember listening to music on a boombox or touting around their Walkmen, but the generations of the 90’s and later will attribute on-the-go music playing to the digital MP3 player, and most notably, the Ipod. Some time around 2003, Apple and other companies like Sony and Creative began to head the digital MP3 player market as these media players had then become a part of the life of the general public. Nowadays there is probably no teenager alive in the developed world who does not know what an Ipod is or own one!