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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
MP3 players move into the big league
Player Creative
Fit your entire CD collection on to a portable player
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Soon you will be able to carry your entire CD collection around with you without using a big box.

A portable MP3 player is due to be launched later this month with enough memory to hold 150 CDs.

In late August, sound card maker Creative Technologies will release its Digital Jukebox that has a 6 gigabyte hard disk onboard.

The release of the player overcomes one of the weaknesses of MP3 players which often only have enough memory to store a few songs.

Moving music

MP3 stands for Mpeg-1 layer 3, a digital compression format from the Moving Picture Expert Group. It shrinks bulky music files down to about a twelfth of their original size by only recording the sounds you can hear.

Software that converts CD tracks to MP3 files samples the music stream thousands of times a second. The more often the stream is sampled the higher quality the music.

About one megabyte of space holds about one minute of MP3 format music.

To fit 150 CDs on to the Jukebox the device samples tracks thousands of times per second. Using a higher sampling rate will cut down the number you can fit on to the device but 50 or 75 CDs will probably be more than enough for most people.

A standard home computer is needed to turn CDs into MP3 files.

Memory Madness

The Creative player can turn a CD into an MP3 file, converting an album of music in around 15 minutes.

Microdrive IBM
The IBM microdrive: A revolution on twenty years ago
The Creative Jukebox is slightly smaller than a portable CD player and uses 4 AA size batteries which give about 4 hours of listening time.

It will go on sale in the UK In late December.

The hard disk can also be used as a portable storage device and can hold and play music recorded in other formats.

In a bid to combat piracy many record companies are turning away from MP3 to more secure systems.

Before it is launched the Creative MP3 player faces competition. In June Korean electronics company HanGo released a portable MP3 player with a 6 gigabyte disk onboard.

The device costs around $699.

The Creative Jukebox is only one of several portable MP3 players that use a hard disk. Some of the others are only available in the US or Asia.

The Creative Jukebox has a far greater storage capacity than most other players which come equipped with only megabytes of memory.

The majority have 32 or 64 megabytes of internal storage space. Some eschew internal memory entirely and store MP3 files on removable cards.

Many new versions of MP3 players will be able to use the IBM Microdrive. This is a tiny hard disk no bigger than a 1 coin that can have up to 1 gigabyte of storage space.

Only 20 years ago, IBM introduced the world's first gigabyte hard drive. It was as big as fridge, weighed 250 kilograms and cost around $40,000 (25,000).

The 1 gigabyte microdrive is due to go on sale in September for about $500 (330). It weighs 16 grams.

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