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Have you ever wondered who invented the mp3 player? Well the question is not as easy to answer as you might expect. Various companies claim to be the inventor of the mp3 player and the issue is still disputed. There is little doubt that it was the release of the iPod in 2001 that really popularised the idea of a digital audio player but there were mp3 players released before then.

While we may not be able to say with absolute certainty who invented the mp3 player we can certainly trace the format itself back to a German company called Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. They license the patent rights to the audio compression technology known as mp3 and the patent was first issued in 1996.

The first mp3 players began to appear shortly after the format was developed. The development of mp3 players for computers and as separate portable devices occurred at around the same time.

The first mp3 player for a computer was developed by Tomislav Uzelac, a Croatian programmer working for the University of Zagreb’s computer science faculty. In 1997 he developed the first mp3 player for Advanced Multimedia Products and it was named the AMP MP3 Playback Engine. It was adapted for use with Windows operating system by two students at the University of Utah, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev. They called their creation WinAMP. This was a player for mp3 playback on a computer, in terms of an actual digital audio device we have to look elsewhere.

Back in 1979 a British man named Kane Kramer invented a digital audio player called the IXI but it could only hold 3.5 minutes of audio. Unsurprisingly it never entered production and the patent expired in 1988 long before the mp3 format was developed.

The first company to mass produce a digital audio player that supported the mp3 format were a South Korean outfit called SaeHan Information Systems. They released the MPMan player in 1997. It was a flash-based player with 16MB of storage. It was imported for the North American
market by Eiger Labs Inc in 1998 and by then they were offering up to 64MB versions.

The Rio PMP300 followed in 1998 and it proved to be much more popular with the public. It was developed by Diamond Multimedia and offered 32MB of internal memory with a SmartMedia slot which allowed you to add additional flash memory. The Recording Industry Association of America attempted to file a restraining order for the Rio PMP300 claiming it violated the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act but their application was denied and the mp3 format and portable mp3 players continued to grow in popularity.

The limitations of flash memory were obvious and expansions were expensive. In 1998 Compaq developed the first portable mp3 player with a hard drive and licensed it to the South Korean company HanGo Electronics. It actually used a 2.5 inch laptop drive and was released as the
Personal Jukebox in 1999. Capable of storing over 4GB of audio it easily offered more space than the competition and since it was released subsequent mp3 players have tended to feature a hard drive.

The first iPod was released in 2001 with a capacity of 5GB and in 2003 the technology for mp3 players was first added to mobile phones. The market is now huge and mp3 players have become the most popular audio devices available. Since the technology was developed quickly and by various people the question of who invented the mp3 player has to be qualified further. If we are talking about the first portable mp3 player device then SaeHan Information Systems take the prize, if we are talking about a player to use on your PC then the winner is Tomislav Uzelac.

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