Since the devices have changed the way we listen to music, you might be wondering who invented the MP3 player. No, it wasn't Apple, and the first MP3 player was not an iPod. In reality, the history of MP3s dates back to the 1970s, and it took several attempts to finally come up with a player that worked.
Starting at the Beginning: A Brief History of the MP3
Before we get to who invented the MP3 player, we have to consider the development of MP3 music files themselves. After all, the stories are linked and the same players are present in both.
MP3 is short for MPEG Audio Layer III. MPEG stands for Motion Pictures Expert Group, which is simply a fancy name for a set of international standards for describing the quality of a compressed sound or video recording. The standards are set on the basis of how much quality is lost during the compression process. The higher the number, the better the quality of sound/video.
Research into creating MP3 files was launched in 1977 by Karlheinz Brandenburg, who is now known as the father of the MP3. Brandenburg was a mathematician and scientist conducting research at Fraunhofer Institut, a division of the German company Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. His research into MP3 level audio file compression continued off and on throughout the late 70s and 80s, but really began in earnest when Fraunhofer Institut launched the Eureka Project to focus on MP3s exclusively. At this point, Brandenburg assembled a team of fellow scientists and researchers, including Dieter Seitzer, who was a professor at Erlangen University.
In 1989, Brandenburg was awarded a German patent for MP3, though the technology did not officially exist yet. In 1992, Seitzer and Brandenburg developed an audio algorithm that allowed them to create MP1 technology. By 1994, that algorithm helped them develop MP2. In 1996, MP3 was achieved and Brandenburg was awarded a US patent for the technology. A period followed in which others started using the technology without crediting Brandenburg, but in 1998, he began an ultimately successful legal offensive to block people from developing MP3 related goods, such as players, coders or rippers, without paying him licensing fees.
In 1999, the first MP3 music tracks for sale were distributed by indie label Sub Pop Records.
Who Invented The MP3 Player?
It wasn't long after the Sub Pop MP3 release that the first MP3 players began to pop up. Brandenburg had tried for a long time to develop these portable players along side the technology for his MP3 files. In the early 1990s, Brandenburg did develop a player, but he couldn't get it to work for the long term. Another failed attempt happened in the mid-1990s.
Ultimately, Brandenburg was unable to come up with a successful portable MP3 player. Instead, the MP3 player was invented by Tomislav Uzelac of the company Advanced Media Products. He called it the AMP MP3 Playback Engine. Two college kids took things a little bit further. Justin Franklin and Dmitry Boldyrev create the WinAmp MP3 player, for people to play MP3s on Windows operating systems for free. The WinAmp system is credited with being instrumental in starting the shift from CDs to MP3s for music fans.
Portable MP3 players also began to appear in 1999. They were big and fairly bulky and did not really catch on until Apple introduced their streamlined iPod MP3 players.
You can learn more about MP3 players in these LTK Music articles:
- Cheap MP3 Players
- IPod Batteries
- IPod Nano
- Portable MP3 Players