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What Company Invented the MP3 Player?

written by: Brandon Levski•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 10/31/2010

Ever wondered what company invented the MP3 Player? Find out who were the men behind the invention of the MP3 standard and what company made the first portable MP3 Player.

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    What is MP3?

    MP3 stands for MPEG Audio Layer III. MPEG is an acronym for Motion Pictures Expert Group, which represents a family of standards for displaying Audio and Video using compression. These standards are set by ISO (Industry Standards Organization) beginning with the MPEG-1 Video compression with low bandwidth in 1992, then the high bandwidth audio and video compression standard of MPEG-2 used in DVD technology and finally the MPEG Layer III which is used only for Audio compression. The MP3 compression offers significant decrease in Audio file size with almost no lost in Audio sound quality. This compression reduces the size of a 3 minute song from 60 MB to approximately 3 MB while offering almost the same sound quality.

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    What company invented the MP3 player? The History of MP3

    The company that invented the mp3 player is the German company Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft. They have the United States Patent 5.579.430 for audio compression technology for a "digital encoding process". The people behind this patent are Bernhard Grill, Karl-Heinz Brandenburg, Thomas Sporer, Bernd Kurten, and Ernst Eberlein. Another name connected to the invention of the MP3 is Dieter Seitzer, a professor at the University of Erlangen. He was involved in experiments on quality transfer of music over a standard phone line.

    In 1987, the research center of Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft Company, called the Fraunhofer Institute Integrierte Schaltungen research center, began researching high quality, low bit-rate audio coding in a project named EUREKA project EU147 for Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). The head of this project was Karl-Heinz Brandenburg, a specialist in mathematics and electronics, who had worked on methods of compressing music since 1977. The MP3 format took several years to fully develop and almost failed. The encoding did work properly until two days before submission of the first version of the MP3 codec, when they found the error in the compiler.

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    The First MP3 Players


    The first MP3 player was developed in the early 1990s by Frauenhofer, but this player was unsuccessful. In 1997 Tomislav Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products invented the AMP MP3 Playback Engine, which is recognized as the first successful MP3 Player.

    Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev, two university students, ported AMP to Windows and created Winamp, which is one of the most used MP3 Players for the Windows OS. In 1998 Winamp became a free MP3 player which ensured the success of the MP3 format.

    Screenshot by author.

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    The First Portable MP3 Player


    The first portable MP3 player was released in 1998 by a Company named Eiger Labs. It featured 32 MB of memory, expandable up to 64 MB. There were two models, the F10 and the F20, which offered Smart Media compatibility. The price was around $ 69 + shipping. The first MP3 Player measured 91 x 70 x 16.5 mm -- which compared to today’s MP3 players makes it a big and heavy portable player.

    Product image by manufacturer.

    For the time being, the MP3 format remains the most used format for encoding Audio files. And with the growth of the Internet, MP3 compression is used even more because it offers same quality for just a fraction of the file size. Fraunhofer Institute retained all rights over the patent; although it has little budget to patrol them.The man who invented the MP3 (Branderburg) is not a wealthy man despite the success of his invention. In a interview for the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" he expressed his lack of interest for money with the words:

    I don't care what the numbers are in my bank account, but I am satisfied with my work, the people I work with, and what it has brought about.