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Memories of the First MP3 Player

Marc Sanchez

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World's First MP3 Player.
(Courtesy Eliot Van Buskirk)
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Eliot Van Buskirk remembers that day the first MP3 player came out. He was part of a techie crew that got to test-drive it.

Eliot Van Buskirk: Well, the first time I saw the Eiger Labs MPMan F20, I was just walking down one of CNET's cubicle farms. This was a typical dot-com set up. And, just by sheer chance, I see this guy pick up a little black box that's attached to his computer, disconnect it, plug in headphones, walk away. And it blew my mind.

First of all, it only fits 10 songs, so you don't have to worry too much about navigation -- but the navigation that was there was very much what you'd have on a CD player. Fast forward, pause, rewind. And then there's a little display that only shows you the number of the track, so you don't actually see what's playing. I think they were thinking, 'Well, this is the first generation, maybe this whole MP3 player thing won't take off. Maybe the next generation will start displaying song names.'

The MPMan I have now sounds about as good as an iPod. It's kind of like one of those mosquitoes trapped in amber, or something, because I've lost the parallel port cable that you use to put songs on to the device. I'm still stuck with those same five songs that I loaded on there originally. And, the first song is one that I recorded myself called, "This Means Bwahr."

And then the last two songs are by My Bloody Valentine. There's an instrumental called "Instrumental B." And finally is "Soon," which is probably their best-known track. I'm actually happy to say I'm still into My Bloody Valentine, and I have tickets to go see them in Glasgow, Scotland, on July 3rd.

In the early days, 10 years ago, I felt like I was one of the only people who knew about this stuff, and for about the first two years, I reviewed every single player. Of course, that's impossible now. There are thousands of different models. For a while there, it was a very small party. It felt like being part of an exclusive club, just knowing that this was going to change the world and nobody knew that yet.

The MPMan, with it's pure dedication to audio, that's actually something that I still like in a device. I don't need to watch little videos everywhere I go. There's been a lot of talk about the MP3 player disappearing, and it's just going to melt into the cell phone. And to me, for the serious music fan, it's going to be really hard for a multi-functional device like a cell phone to really give you the experience you need. The best possible music experience is only going to come from a device that only does music.

  • Music Bridge:
    Opal Sessions
    Artist: Donnacha Costello
    CD: Colorseries (Minimise)


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By N J

    From Charlotte, NC, 03/15/2008

    Can anyone please tell me what song plays in the beginning of the story, right after Eliot talks about the person at Cnet unplugging his black box from the computer and walking away? It is at 31:50 in the mp3 of the 2nd hour of the show.

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