Technology · Word of the week

Word of the week: MiniDisc

Here’s a picture of my Sony MiniDisc Walkman which has just celebrated its 22nd birthday.


As you can see, it’s an MZ-R30, and it still works perfectly. So do the hundreds of discs that I have bought for it over the years, examples of which appear in the following picture.


The original charger continues to work, and the battery life of the device is still exceptional, at least 16 hours per charge. This is my kind of technology: technology that lasts, and which allows you to record easily and reliably. I can still record onto, play back and edit any of the discs that are scattered in various locations around the house.

I can also play back most of the cassettes that I have acquired over the last 40-odd years, and we have a selection of working cassette players. Unfortunately, many of the CDs that I bought, later than many people began their CD collections (and at up to £25 per double CD set), are not so reliable. Nor are most of the CD players that I have acquired. I have disposed of at least four of them, and we have kept others only because they are still functional in other ways. The multifunction Radio / Alarm Clock / CD player on my wife’s side of the bed still works as a radio and as a clock. The CD player has not worked for at least 10 years, so as a piece of kit it does the same job as the Radio / Alarm Clock (made by Bush, purchased in 1989) on my side of the bed. That’s another good example of technology that has lasted.

Many of the words on this Blog are drafted on a Samsung Netbook which I bought (for £250) in September 2010, the same month my wife gave me a Roberts DAB Digital Radio for my birthday. Both machines are used extensively every day and have worked without any kind of fault for nearly 10 years. The radio has a record option – from digital stations to an SD card. It creates MP2 files (around 1Mb per minute) which can be copied to any PC and played on most devices. The Archos 7 that I also acquired in 2010 is not used so often these days but it still works fine. It allows you to record audio (to WAV files) and video, from any source, through a docking station. It creates AVI files (around 1Gb per hour of recording) which play fine on most Windows PCs but not (in my experience) on Apple Macs. When the children were smaller, it was an invaluable travelling companion. Its 80Gb hard drive stored enough home videos and episodes of old favourites like “Dora the Explorer” and “Something Special” to keep them entertained on long journeys.

All of this long-lasting technology – from the 31-year-old Bush clock-radio to the netbook that’s about to celebrate its 10th birthday – gives me a sense of contentment. None of it has let me down. But it is the MiniDisc player that impresses me the most. 22 years is a long time for a piece of kit with recording capabilities to stay in perfect working order. It has been dropped a few times, without any ill effects, and for around 10 years it was my main source of music on the move. It was with me on all of my trips to New York City and has travelled all over Ireland and continental Europe. I was still buying new discs for it until 2015. There was a shop off the Tottenham Court Road that sold Sony 5-packs for under £15. The last time I checked, sometime last year, they were selling individual discs for around £7. A quick check on Amazon shows that you can get them slightly cheaper (£6.35) if you are happy to use Sharp as a brand. (I never have been, for various reasons.) 5-packs of Sony MD-80s retail at just under £30 but I do not need to buy any more. I have more than enough discs to keep me going. There are at least 30 whose contents can be wiped clean so that I can start all over again. If only all technology were so reliable.



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