By Jon Pareles – NY Times
MY 21st century started in 1998, when I got a new toy. It was the Diamond Rio PMP300, a flimsy plastic gadget the size of a cigarette pack. PMP stood for Portable Music Player. It had a headphone jack, and it played a recently invented digital file format: MPEG-1 Audio Layer Three, or MP3.
The Rio’s 32 megabytes of storage held a dozen songs at passable fidelity. Its sound was clearly inferior to a portable CD player; its capacity was comparable to a cassette or two. But the beauty of it was that it didn’t need any CD or cassette inserted, just digital files — copies of songs — loaded from a computer, to be changed at whim. They might come from albums people owned or borrowed; they might come, even back then, from strangers online. The Recording Industry Association of America sued to have the PMP300 taken off the market and failed — the prelude to a decade of lawsuits trying to corral online music. [Read More]