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Audio revolution: the story of mp3

Over one billion music tracks are currently downloaded every month on the Internet using mp3, making it the Web's most popular audio compression format by far. But how many users would guess that the technology originated in a refrigerator-sized box in Bavaria back in the mid-1980s, or that Thomson has been closely involved ever since then as a pioneer of audio compression technology?

In the 1980s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set up the Moving Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) to work on an international norm for the coded representation of pictures. In December 1988, at a meeting held at Deutsche Thomson Brandt's Hanover offices, the MPEG decided to introduce sound coding within its terms of reference.

The result was MPEG-1 Layer 3, later shortened for convenience to the file suffix "mp3". The research on the compression of music files had been carried out by a team of scientists under Karlheinz Brandenburg, working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Bavaria. Brandenburg first built a refrigerator-size machine that could reduce a sound file to 8 percent of its original size, then concentrated on replicating its effects through an algorithm.

Thomson multimedia's role throughout the spectacular rise of mp3 has been crucial, and today it involves a worldwide effort in which three of the Group's eight Strategic Business Units participate. Digital audio technology may be constantly changing, but Thomson's goal remains the same: to bring improved quality, convenience and enjoyment to music-lovers of the present, and the future.

The Lyra, a personal digital audio player that fits easily in the palm of your hand, plays digital-quality music from CDs and the Internet, using mp3 and other compression formats. Thanks to a removable high-capacity memory card, you can download and play two hours of music on the Lyra, which offers a range of play modes and audio modes, and a backlit alphanumeric LCD displaying information such as song title and artist. The Thomson Lyra is an open-ended product which can be upgraded by software downloads, and which guarantees compatibility with future compression formats.


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