Vintage MP3 Players written 6 years ago

Vintage MP3 Player and Smartmedia Card

The press gaily reported the other week that the iPhone is now 5 years old. It seems rather scary that something so ubiquitous as the iPhone didn’t once exist, and that pre-iphone the world was a different place. This thought soon had me rummaging through the cupboards to dig out my olde-worlde MP3 Players to see just how much we’ve advanced over the past 10 years.

2002 - 11 Years Ago

Just over 10 years ago, there was an odd, quiet revolution occurring in the portable music market: Some people were toting CD-Players; some had Minidisk players; some crazies still had a walkman to entertain them on the way into school. There were some however that had gone before their time and had got themselves a digital audio player. Back in the early days this was basically either one of those ungodly apple things or a rather cumbersome Archos Jukebox. If you waited a year or two, like I did, and were prepared to pay a whopping 79.99 on one; you ended up with something that looked like the below:

DapPro MP3 Player 64MB
DapPro MP3 Player 64MB

It’s rather stark appearance revealing little other than it being a “PRO digital audio player”; means that I’m not even sure what it’s true brand is - I don’t think I even knew when I bought it - meaning that finding drivers was a chore.

Putting files onto the device was an awkward affair, requiring proprietary drivers to be installed (no mass storage devices here!), and then waiting hours for files to awkwardly transfer to the device using some awful MP3 Manager software. It was just as well transfer wasn’t quick - the in-built 64MB was filled after a mere 20 songs. I apparently splashed out on a 128MB Smartmedia card - I do recall hoping I could share the (then massive) memory card with my camera, but upon using it in the MP3 player it found a means to irreversibly convert it into a format that only the MP3 Player could then interact in, rendering it permanently inserted into he device.

I still have it, and occasionally find myself popping a new AA battery in it to re-live my questionable taste in music.

2004 - 8 years ago

Next up is the iRiver IFP 590T. I got this because the “PRO” no-longer worked with Windows 2000 SP4 - and there was no sign of any drivers in sight.

iRiver IFP 590T 256MB
iRiver IFP 590T 256MB
iRiver IFP 590T 256MB in Case
It even came with a snug little case

Now the concept of an mp3 player was more mainstream, design got a look in. This one being proudly designed by “inno’ who today proudly proclaim themselves to be “A professional design consulting group established in 1986”. The choice at this point was still pithy small amounts of flash, or a chunky hard disk (that is if you were anti-apple). A whopping 256MB of built in-and-not-upgradable memory graced this beast, but an FM Radio and line-in recorder had appeared to fill the memory void. It could even output music as optical digital. Filling it could be as easy as dragging and dropping (I chose the route of an awkward mp3 to ogg transcoder script thingy to semi-automate the process), or you could use some awkward file-manager software. This top-of-the-range device even supported OGG files, yeah, OGG files baby.

I loved the cool retro-walkman design, and the magnesium body just felt like a quality lump of something in the hand. The diminutive size meant forgoing upgradable storage (Micro-SD cards were more expensive than printer ink), but it was totes worth it for the clutched in the hand form factor. I seem to recall it costing an insane amount of money, perhaps 180?

Sadly this chap died in a botched firmware upgrade a couple years ago. It was a sad day.

2007 - 5 Years ago

Wanting more storage, I eventually moved on from the mini-walkman, and as a sign of not really being able to get what I wanted I bought the iRiver x20 2GB for 37 second hand:

iRiver X20 2gb
iRiver X20 2GB

A truely modern piece of technology: we’ve got a squishy plastic case, this time featuring a full colour display and an expandable (via micro SD) 2GB of flash storage. On that 2GB of storage you could fernangle a video, provided you were prepared to transcode it into some esoteric format, or even view your last holiday snaps on the beast. Suffice to say I never undertook either of these activities.

Becoming mostly mundane items at this point, the iriver X20 reflects a decidedly middle-of-the range model, displaying my lack of desire for the latest thingummy, and that at this point even a mediocre device excelled over the most expensive device from 5 years prior. All in all a device that did what it was told, and mostly received few grumbles for its troubles.

— Join me in another 10 years to see my antiquated collection of iphone 5s :-)

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