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The Inventor of the First MP3 Player

This Guy Predicted Digital Music in 1979

One of the most important tech inventions of our generation, the MP3 player didn't just invent itself. For that, we can thank Kane Kramer. He may not be a household name, but Kramer developed the first portable digital audio player 20 years before it became industry standard. In 1979, he designed the IXI digital audio player, the first of its kind to transfer and store music to-go. The player contained a credit card-sized IXI chip that held between 30 minutes to an hour of music, depending on the audio system (mono or stereo). All this 22 years before the iPod was introduced!

Kramer told us in an email that before the Internet age, he imagined the "idea and concept of delivering music, data, and video down telephone lines on demand" via a small, portable device. Kramer's sketches, which are over 40 years old, very closely resemble what we now know as the iPod and iPod Mini. In 2008, Apple admitted that Kramer is the true genius behind the iPod technology.

The players that Kramer developed fit in the palm of your hand and featured a small LCD screen and a central navigation control panel. Despite reports claiming the player only held three and a half minutes of music, Kramer insists the IXI held one hour of mono audio, half an hour of stereo, or 16 tracks of master recordings. He even considered features that we often take for granted, like having the ability to "select any track in any order" or download new content onto the device "in a matter of seconds."


It's almost unbelievable — how many trends Kramer invented 20 years before MP3 players would hit the mainstream market. In his 1979 proposal for IXI Systems, Kramer predicted that MP3s would "replace the heavy costs of distribution of records and tapes," would provide "immediacy of delivery," and "eliminate the need for retailers to carry any inventory." Sure enough, in the past two decades, almost every music store has closed down, while online MP3 sales have skyrocketed.

Source: Kane Kramer and Getty / Justin Sullivan

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