Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

Topics On Multimedia Technology and Reverse Engineering


Diamond Rio Artifacts

August 29th, 2012 by Multimedia Mike

Remember the Diamond Rio PMP300? It’s credited with being the very first portable MP3 player, released all the way back in 1998 (I say ‘credited’ because I visited an audio museum once which exhibited a Toshiba MP3 player from 1997). I recently rescued a pristine set of Rio artifacts from a recycle pile.

I wondered if I should scan the manual for posterity. However, a Google search indicates that a proper PDF (loaded with pleas to not illegally copy music) isn’t very difficult to come by. Here are the other items that came with the unit:

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Ah, more memories (of dialup internet): A tie-in with another Diamond product, this time a modem which claims to enable the user to download songs at up to 112 kilobits per second. I wonder if that was really possible. I remember that 56k modems were a stretch and 33.6k was the best that most users could hope for.

There is also a separate piece of paper that advises the buyer that the parallel port adapter might look a bit different than what is seen in the printed copy. Imagine the age of downloading to your MP3 player via parallel port while pulling down new songs via dialup internet.

The artifacts also included not one, but two CD-ROMs:

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One is a driver and software disc, so no big surprise there. The other has a selection of MP3 files for your shiny new MP3 player. I’m wondering if these should be proactively preserved. I was going to process the files’ metadata and publish it here, for the benefit of search engines. However, while metadata is present, the files don’t conform to any metadata format that FFmpeg/Libav recognize. The files mention Brava Software Inc. in their metadata sections. Still, individual filenames at the end of this post.

A few other miscellaneous multimedia acquisitions:

I still want to study all of these old multimedia creation programs in depth some day. Theatrix Hollywood is a creative writing game, Wikipedia alleges (I’m a bit rigid with my exact definition of what constitutes a game). Here is an example movie output from this software. Meanwhile, the Mad Dog Multimedia CD-ROM apparently came packaged with a 56X CD-ROM drive (roughly the pinnacle of CD-ROM speeds). I found it has some version of Sonic Foundry’s ACID software, thus making good on the “applications” claim on the CD-ROM copy.

Diamond Rio MP3 Sampler
These are the names of the MP3 files found on the Diamond Rio MP3 sampler for the benefit of search engines.

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Who Invented FLIC?

May 25th, 2011 by Multimedia Mike

I have been reading through “All Your Base Are Belong To Us: How 50 Years of Video Games Conquered Pop Culture” by Harold Goldberg. Despite the title, Zero Wing has yet to be mentioned (I’m about halfway done).

I just made it through the chapter describing early breakthrough CD-ROM games, including Myst, The 7th Guest, and The 11th Hour. Some interesting tidbits:

The 7th Guest
Of course, Graeme Devine created a new FMV format (called VDX, documented here) for The 7th Guest. The player was apparently called PLAY and the book claims that Autodesk was so impressed by the technology that it licensed the player for use in its own products. When I think of an Autodesk multimedia format, I think of FLIC. The VDX coding format doesn’t look too much like FLIC, per my reading.

Here’s the relevant passage (pp 118-119):

Devine began working on creating software within the CD-ROM disk that would play full-motion video. Within days he had a robust but small ninety-kilobyte player called PLAY that was so good, it was licensed by Autodesk, the makers of the best 3-D animation program at the time. Then Devine figured out a way to compress the huge video files so that they would easily fit on two CD-ROMs.

Googling for “autodesk trilobyte play program” (Trilobyte was the company behind 7th Guest) led me to this readme file for a program called PLAY73 (hosted at Jason Scott’s massive CD-ROM archive, and it’s on a disc that, incidentally, I donated to the archive; so, let’s here it for Jason’s tireless archival efforts! And for Google’s remarkable indexing prowess). The file — dated September 10, 1991 — mentions that it’s a FLICK player, copyright Trilobyte software.

However, it also mentions being a Groovie Player. Based on ScummVM’s reimplementation of the VDX format, Groovie might refer to the engine behind The 7th Guest.

So now I’m really interested: Did Graeme Devine create the FLIC file format? Multimedia nerds want to know!

I guess not. Thanks to Jim Leonard for digging up this item: “I developed the flic file format for the Autodesk Animator.” Jim Kent, Dr. Dobbs Magazine, March 1993.

The PLAY73 changelog reveals something from the bad old days of DOS/PC programming: The necessity of writing graphics drivers for 1/2 dozen different video adapters. The PLAY73 readme file also has some vintage contact address for Graeme Devine; remember when addresses looked like these?

If you have any comments, please send them to:
	Compuserve: 72330,3276
	Genie     : G.DEVINE
	Internet  : 72330,

The 11th Hour
The book didn’t really add anything I didn’t already know regarding the compression format (RoQ) used in 11th Hour. I already knew how hard Devine worked at it. This book took pains to emphasize the emotional toll taken on the format’s creator.

I wonder if he would be comforted to know that, more than 15 years later, people are still finding ways to use the format.

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