The Mini-Disc never caught on in the U.S. But during the 1990s, the format did in its native Japan, where MD isn’t yet dead.
Launching in 1991, MD was the coolest format. It was like a compact disc, but smaller (hence, Mini-Disc). Unlike CDs, it didn’t skip. You could also chuck Mini-Discs in your bag because MD was encased in plastic. According to a recent LiveDoor News article, the Mini-Disc peak in Japan was the year 2000.
The following year, the iPod launched.
The iPod didn’t take off initially in Japan (neither did the iPhone). When I arrived in Japan in 2001, I bought a Sony stereo with an MD deck. Sick of having CDs skip on my in college, I imported an MD player from Japan and made MD mix discs. It was awesome. It was also very 20th century.
When digital music began to dominate, MD faded away with its niche no longer needed. MDs were unable to match CD’s quality for tangible media—though, the gap has closed in more recent years.
While Sony stopped selling MD players in 2013, it continues to make blank MDs and support its Mini-Disc players. Teac is currently the only Japanese company making and selling MD players.
Though, MD’s days are numbered. Teac expects its Mini-Disc deck production to end in the next several years.