NetMD for Minidisc to Computer*
Audio Uploading: A Proposal
* Including PC, Macintosh and Unix/Linux computers
Eric Woudenberg (on behalf of many), May 2002
All NetMD capable Minidisc machines are equipped with a USB interface that allows quick and reliable connections between the MD component and PC. It is a feature that Minidisc users have long wished for, not to say expected, considering that the MD's digital optical disk is essentially a computer data storage medium.
However, today's implementations of NetMD still fail to fully integrate the Minidisc with the PC. What remains critically lacking is the possibility of moving audio directly from Minidisc to PC. Anyone wishing to transfer MD audio to a PC is typically reduced to making an analog "recording" of the MD's output signal on their PC; a cumbersome process that generally degrades the signal and always proceeds in realtime (a 5 hour LP4 disc takes 5 hours to transfer, but would take less than 10 minutes were NetMD-based uploading possible).
High-speed, lossless audio upload is a critically important function for those using Minidisc in a creative capacity. Minidisc is, and will undoubtedly remain, a superb field recording device. As the diffusion of computers and the Internet increase, so too does the need for a simple and direct method of moving audio material captured on Minidisc into the networked world. From artists and journalists to scientists and engineers, innumerable Minidisc users would directly benefit from such a capability, were it available.
It is possible that Sony (a content provider) has not provided NetMD audio upload capability due to concerns that it would foster copyright infringement. However, the recording and consumer electronics industries appear satisfied with content protection schemes that prevent the digital copying of copyrighted material. Without abridging this principle in the slightest, we propose the following:
Sony made identification of copyrighted and non-copyrighted recordings part of the original Minidisc standard. Every Minidisc recorder tags its recordings to indicate whether a track was recorded through the unit's analog jack or its digital one.
It is not necessary that ATRAC files be stored on the PC for this operation; simultaneous conversion of the compressed audio to CD format as it is being uploaded would suffice.
Restricting digitally recorded tracks to playback-only status on the PC, by way of OpenMG Jukebox, would still allow users to create a PC-based "Jukebox" of their Minidisc music collection. This would satisfy many who have long awaited a home MD changer. It would also strengthen the position of Sony's OpenMG Jukebox software, making it a centerpiece of many an MD fan's home HiFi system.
Yes, but moving analog audio onto a PC is simpler without Minidisc, by connecting the analog source to the computer's sound card and recording the signal to hard disk. The point is, analog copying is in essence always possible -- anything coming out of a headphone jack can be recorded by a PC, MD or other audio recording device.
Sony has traditionally kept a tight lid on access to ATRAC1 data. Perhaps they have felt that ATRAC1 represents their family jewels. (It is an admittedly high quality codec). But in this Internet age, a company making their encoded audio files and a decoder for them generally available (high quality or not) hardly qualifies as unusual or risky. And in fact if the only encoders available for ATRAC1 were inside Minidisc recorders, then greater availability of PC based decoders could only spur recorder sales.
Artists and others creating their own material deserve the highest quality affordable. Minidisc today, using ATRAC1, is of sufficient quality for CD mastering work. Additionally, an ATRAC3-only restriction on NetMD uploads would prevent uploading of a vast amount of recorded Minidisc material. People have been using Minidisc since 1992 for all kinds of important field recording; the ATRAC3 format only became available in the Fall of 2000. It is a betrayal of the Minidisc user base to say that recordings they made are not eligible for quick and easy upload.