Welcome to the future
An overview on the inner workings of the MP3 and what makes it superior to older formats
An abbreviated history on how the MP3 came to be and its impact on the Internet so far
A look at some of the commotion that MP3s have caused in the courtrooms with the recording industry
You're on it!
Some other documents you may want to check out to learn some more about MP3s
A quick biography of Jack Karlis
Shopping for sound
Walkmans make MP3s portable

by Jack Karlis

If you’re looking into entering the world of digital audio through the use of MP3s, you may have more decisions to face when choosing your equipment than just price. This is just an abbreviated guide to help you get a feel for the pulse of the market.

If you plan on listening to your new tunes on your PC, you might want to try the downloadable WinAmp, which comes with a $10 registration fee. Macintosh users will want to try MacAmp of course, which can be found for relatively free. The $10 fee is relatively inexpensive compared to the quality of music you will be hearing.

You also would want to join something called Napster, an online flea market of MP3s in which a user’s sound files are shared with others in the community as soon as that particular user logs on. It also serves as a type of search engine for music downloads.

Napster has become so popular that it has created a high amount of traffic on college networks. A March ZDTV article of this year estimated that student music searches on Napster accounted for more than 60 percent of the traffic between some schools and the Internet. As late as this February, over 97,000 different files were available for download through Napster. The problem has become so bad, that it has even been banned for use by some colleges. Napster compromised with schools that banned it by making modifications to its software, so those schools with Internet II will see a reduction in the amount of traffic.

You can download these files as they are or also “rip” them. “Ripping” is a process where individual songs are taken straight from your compact disc. So you can form a type of “mix tape” with your own personal collection. A good ripper get you started is Music Match’s Jukebox 3.

You’ve created your all-time favorite ensemble on a single recording. Now, youcan look to take those files with you anywhere.

Diamond’s Rio 500 is a Walkman-type device that provides skip-free playback and hours of music. Rio uses an USB connection which reduces the amount of download time from your computer. It can be purchased for around $199 at most home appliance chains.

Creative Labs’ Nomad has a slight advantage over the Rio 500 with the addition of a FM radio. Nomad also has a built-in voice recorder that you can keep audio memos and play them back later on your home computer if you so choose. The price hovers around $200 as well.

Nomad may fit your needs now, but since the SDMI is starting to create new formats that will be incompatible with MP3s, you may want the Nomad II. Expanding on the previous version, it is prepared for some of the future formats that are now appearing on the Internet. It can be thought of investing now, instead of upgrading later down the line. The price leaves something to be desired. The 32 MB model is a modest $199. The 64 MB version then jumps up to $329.99, however, the player alone just costs $99.99.That doesn’t include the memory card, which you may buy separately and save some cash.

RCA’s Lyra will put a $250 dent in your wallet, but can store more memory than a SmartMedia based player like the Rio.

The best way to find out what is the right choice for your particular financial situation is to, as in any case, shop around. As MP3s become more widely used, the prices will drop. Just look at video cassette recorders.