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The Failed MP3 Player That Changed the Music Industry Forever

Article by Ryan Bray, via Consequence of Sound

Now that smart phones essentially double as portable music players, the iPod has more or less become a relic. But that shouldn’t take away from what a monumentally influential invention it’s proven to be. It’s not a stretch to call the first successful mass-market mp3 player one of the single-most game-changing innovations of the last two decades. With a gadget smaller than your wallet, Apple altered the way we access and listen to music. We take for granted in 2018 that music essentially exists for the taking across a host of different platforms, but it took the iPod to transform music from a massively profitable commodity to something more akin to a free resource.

Apple deserves credit for transitioning the world over from physical media to mp3s and later streaming. Facts being what they are, no other company brought an mp3 player to market that came remotely close to rivaling the iPod. But the mp3 player’s origin story doesn’t begin in Cupertino. Some 300 miles away in the San Fernando Valley, another company beat Apple to the punch with a device of its own.

In 1982, Chong Moon Li founded Diamond Multimedia, a company that became one of the leading manufacturers of graphics and sound cards in the 1990s. Diamond Multimedia also was one of the earliest companies to dabble in the then-nascent field of digital audio players. In September 1998, the company went to market with the Rio PMP300, which arguably served as the precursor to what Apple would eventually develop just a few short years later. In fact, it’s hard not to look at the PMP300 as a crudely constructed iPod. The device shares the iPod’s rectangular shape as well as many of its most distinct features, most notably the display screen and click wheel.

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