Today is MiniDisc day, the very first of its’ kind (March 7th 2020). “I remember them” say a few Ageing B Boys… right now I have a shoe box full of DuckAlert Minidiscs I am converting… imagine a decades worth of beats and the brother makes maybe 3 or 4 a week minimum, so you have some idea how many tracks there are!. I myself have only about 20 left from back in the day and over the last year I have been creating new MiniDisc recordings (onto old discs).
I always loved MDs, the futuristic sleek feel and look to them, pretty much the last truly portable music format of physical media before it went pure digital.
I’m not saying I dislike digital media, I’ve bought a few on Bandcamp over the years and taking a single hard drive (with a backup obviously) to a gig is way more convenient than loads of vinyl.
I’m known as a vinyl head and I always will be, but to me MiniDisc is somehow, just the best format for home recording. What are the other options? Tape? Love tapes, have loads, but deteriorate too quickly and too easily damaged. CD? Come ooowwwn (Biz Markie voice), CDs have no soul.
But MiniDisc?? Yeah, I’m loving those… the thing is, over the past year I have fallen into several other tiny sub genres of music all discovered because of MiniDisc, mainly for me, Vaporwave. The thing is, because it’s a dead format, no new MDs are being manufactured, so as people release MDs now, they are effectively using up new old stock. Which kind of makes it feel special, like we are somehow saving the format. It’s a real cottage industry and I love the passion for it.
Vaporwave is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s almost all instrumental and a lot of it is loops of tracks just manipulated and slowly warping. Some of it is admittedly, just trash… but there are also some masterpieces… (I just defined every art known to mankind)
But the reason I’m posting, is do any Disco Scratch / Ageing B Boys / travellers of the interwebs either still use MiniDisc or are interested in the format? Or am I on my Jack Jones here? I’m guessing some of you have some chucked in a draw, but if there’s anyone in here still interested in the format, I’d love to hear your story!
I bought my deck from Richer Sounds back in the day, it was the most common one in the UK at the time, the Sony JE320. I had an Aiwa portable but the name evades me (it was nothing special, probably a shitty mega bass one, but I loved it and it was a recorder too). Both were sold around mid 2000s at some point.
Last year (2019) I bought a deck off someone in great condition, it’s a higher end model, the Sony MDS-JB940 with 50 mini discs, got it for a steal. I also bought a portable, the Sony MZ-N710. I got that for £30! It came with a spare battery, leather case, all the bits and bobs, LCD display (remember them? You could put them on your lapel and control your music. Bear in mind this tech was almost 20 years ago!
There are definite disadvantages to having a physical medium to consume music… the mechanism has to physically spin, which means a motor needs to turn it, which in turn uses battery, so a personal MD, although still very efficient, often isn’t the best thing. The iPod killed off the MD, even though there were other MP3 players out there before that (I seem to remember the iRiver for one).
I was a pirate on the seas of the early internet back in 1998 when I first had broadband (I had it early as I worked for BT and even then we were still installing home highway!) And was a member of Soulseek (still am!, look for the Disco Scratch room), Audio Galaxy and Napster. I first met a few early adopters like Russ from MP3 genius among others, oh and Jimmy Smithson… And this was also prime minidisc usage period for me so what I normally did for about 5 years was just have the output of my computer into the analogue inputs on the deck, record all the tracks, then meticulously do all the track names. This was easier with CDs as they accessed the GraceNote CD database.
I also converted tons of vinyl LPs to MD, a laborious process but back then there were few options to get the music in a portable format how I wanted. They were great for sharing too… you could do digital copies with no loss of quality. I know that there is a compression algorithm applied when using MD, but it still sounded great to me. (You can get really nerdy with this by watching the Techmoan video all about it)
So, after not putting any blog posts on Disco Scratch for I dunno, years, why now? Well, I feel like I’m entering a new phase of creativity and don’t want it to pass by. I’ve rebooted the radio show and I’m back in the lab producing. Should have at least one new release out on vinyl this year (I’d love to put out a minidisc, we’ll see how that goes!)
So, have a look at the links I’ve put in above if you are interested in rekindling your love of MDs or finding out about them for the first time, please leave a comment if you wanna chat!