Vintage Computer Audio: Rio PMP300

The PMP300 ($200) from Diamond Multimedia was among the first portable MP3 players to hit the market which it did in 1998. The diminutive PMP300 (3.5 x 2.5 x 0.625") came with 32MB of internal memory (about 1 hour of music at 128kbps) and also offered a Smart Media flash memory card slot for expansion of up to 128MB. The PMP300 housed a proprietary connector and the included cable connected it to your PC's parallel-port for copying your MP3s from PC to PMP300. Powered by a single AA battery, the PMP300 provided about 8 hours of music per battery.

From Wikipedia:

On October 8, 1998, the American recording industry group, the Recording Industry Association of America, filed an application for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the sale of the Rio player in the Central District Court of California, claiming the player violated the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act.

Judge Andrea Collins issued the temporary order on October 16, but required the RIAA to post a $500,000 bond that would be used to compensate Diamond for damages incurred in the delay if Diamond eventually prevailed in court. Diamond then announced that it would temporarily delay shipment of the Rio.

On October 26, Judge Collins denied the RIAA's application. After the lawsuit ended, Diamond sold 200,000 players.

Some things never change.

Rio also developed an online music delivery service, RioPort, "the first digital music service to license secure, single-track commercial downloads from major record labels". Launched in 2001, MTV was one of the first sites to use Rioport's Pulse One Media Services delivery system. MTV initially offered 10,000 songs for $1.99/each or full albums for $18.98. Does that seem like a lot to pay for an MP3 in 2001? Here's one explanation from an article titled "MTV Gets Down With Downloads" that appeared in Wired from April 2001,

"The idea that the music doesn't have value when it's taken off the disk is wrong; the art form is the music," said Ted Cohen, EMI's vice president of new media. "Whether it's a download, bought in a store, or burned, we see that the value is in the music.

"It makes it more complex to go to an artist and tell them that they are going to get less money because they are selling the tracks digitally."

Interesting, no? Also of interest is there's no mention in this article of sound quality, lossy compression or the differences between an MP3 and a CD. But that kind of goes hand-in-hand with the notion that consumer's should pay the same for a sonically inferior MP3 download as they would for a CD.

deckeda's picture

"Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it."

And the relevant "money shot", so to speak:

"It makes it more complex to go to an artist and tell them that they are going to get less money because they are selling the tracks digitally." ---EMI suit

I suppose the consideration of leaving artist royalties as they were --- if I'm not mistaken, they'd already done their job? --- and passing the savings on to the customer of not having to physically distribute, or at least letting download bandwidth costs be offset by it, wasn't on the table either. "More complex" is a euphemism for "contract negotiation" but that would only have to be as complex as they designed it.

I didn't know Rio supported an online music store out of the gate. But yeah, the novelty of the portable's use of MP3 supposedly overshadowed concerns about quality. And then Napster happened. And by 2001, "Rip, Mix, Burn" (iTunes and CD burning, iPod, "Don't Steal")

In retrospect it doesn't surprise me that SACD and DVD-A had weak intros during that era and never gained much traction. The industry and musicians like Lars Ulrich were busy squashing MP3s instead of working to promote the more secure, more valuable mediums instead, which includes vinyl. (An oversimplification, sure.)

gkrakow's picture

My '300 still runs like a top.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I wish I still ran like a top...