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Where'd MP3 come from?

Articles / Personal Stuff/Random News
Date: Mar 07, 2007 - 11:00 AM
Businessweek interviews the father of the MP3 format:

Brandenburg's involvement in digital music compression began in the early 1980s when he was a doctoral student at Germany's University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. A professor urged Brandenburg to work on the problem of how to transmit music over a digital ISDN phone line. It wasn't just a computer coding problem. Brandenburg had to immerse himself in the science behind how people perceive music.

That was where Suzanne Vega came in. Her song Tom's Diner, though seemingly a simple ditty, proved devilishly difficult to reproduce without annoying background noise. "Suzanne Vega was a catastrophe. Terrible distortion," Brandenburg recalls. "The a cappella version of Tom's Diner was more difficult to compress without compromising on audio quality than anything else."

When MP3 developers refined the technology to the point where Tom's Diner sounded true to the original, they had made a major breakthrough. "I've listened to this 20 seconds [of Tom's Diner] a thousand times. I still like the music," says Brandenburg, who met Vega years later when both attended an event in Cannes to mark the creation of MP3.

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