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July 2012: mp3 – The German Innovation That Revolutionized the Music Industry

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 2012: mp3 – The German Innovation That Revolutionized the Music Industry

For almost 20 years, the audio coding format mp3 has changed the way we buy and access music. The roots of this revolutionary technology lie in the Bavarian city of Erlangen, Germany. Here, at the Fraunhofer IIS, a team of scientists and engineers began their work on audio coding with the intent to transmit music over telephone lines in the late 1980's. 1987 marked the first milestone, when Fraunhofer IIS researchers successfully introduced a functional real-time codec of the LC-ATC algorithm, an early predecessor of mp3. The technological development peaked in 1995 when the Fraunhofer team presented the file ending ".mp3" and the first hardware mp3 player prototype. Since then, mp3 has become the synonym for the standard name "MPEG Layer 3." The Motion Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) is a working group of the ISO Standardization organization with the mission to standardize multimedia technologies. The first commercial mp3 players reached the market three years later, in 1998.

But mp3 is not the only world standard audio file format primarily developed at Fraunhofer IIS: The mp3-research team was also the driving force behind the development of the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) family of MPEG codecs. Today, the AAC codecs are nearly as widespread as mp3, and have become integral parts of almost all smartphones, mobile music players, PCs, and consumer electronics. For an overview of the history of the mp3, click here. For information on Fraunhofer IIS, here.