The Plan 9 CD-ROM needed about 100MB for the full distribution, if that. We hatched a plan to fill up the rest with encoded music and include the software to decode it. (We wanted to get the encoder out too, but lawyers stood in the way. Keep reading.) Using connections I had with folks in the area, and some very helpful friends in the music business, I got permission to distribute several hours of existing recorded stuff from groups like the Residents and Wire. Lou Reed gave a couple of pieces too - he was very interested in Ken and Sean's work (which, it should be noted, was built on groundbreaking work done in the acoustics center at Bell Labs) and visited us to check it out. Debby Harry even recorded an original song for us in the studio.

We had permission for all this of course, and releases from everyone involved. It was very exciting.

So naturally, just before release, an asshole (I am being kind) lawyer at AT&T headquarters in Manhattan stopped the project cold. In a phone call that treated me as shabbily as I have ever been, he said he didn't know who these "assholes" (again, but this time his term) were and therefore the releases were meaningless because anyone could have written them.

And that, my friends, is why MP-3 took off instead of the far better follow-on system we were on the cusp of getting out the door.


P.S. No, I don't have the music any more. Too sad to keep.

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 12:19 PM Andrew Hume <> wrote:
the early versions of the audio compression stuff were not quite is good as
the later versions (which became apples stuff) but compressed to substantially
smaller size. ken compressed 2-3 hrs or so of music for my wedding and that
was rather less than a CD.

> On Jun 21, 2022, at 7:14 PM, Jon Steinhart <> wrote:
> George Michaelson writes:
>> There was this persisting story that Ken got permission from somebody
>> like CBS or Sony to have a very large amount of classical music on a
>> 400MB drive, for research purposes. No, really: he was doing some
>> psycho-acoustic thing comparing compressed to uncompressed for
>> somebody, or improving on the fraunhoffer algorithms which became MP3.
>> The point was, the rest of us had to listen to CDs and Ken had the
>> complete works of Bach (or something) on a hard drive, which we were
>> told he kept in the office, and played at home over a landline of some
>> horrendously high bandwidth, un-imaginable speeds like a megabit,
>> imagine, a MILLION of those suckers. How dare he. Thats more than the
>> whole of queensland. I imagine the truth is much less interesting, and
>> there was no major IPR fraud going on at the labs coding stuff as MP3
>> like we imagined, under the table.
>> I imagine this would also have been a Datakit T-1. But surely that was
>> a 1.44mbit carrier? T1 was smaller than E1 because europeans and
>> asians learned to count to 32 not 24.
>> -G
> This reminds me of a Ken story from the late '90s.  I was at a conference
> that I won't name where Ken gave a talk about his compression work; if I
> remember correctly his goal was to fit all of the Billboard Top 100 songs
> of all time onto a single CD.  He showed us the big stack of disks that he
> made to give to us, but then said that to his surprise the the lawyers
> refused to give permission.  At that point he became very focused on messing
> with his slides while everyone got up, got in line, and took a disc.  After
> the pile was gone Ken looked up and nonchalantly continued his talk.
> That might also have been the conference at which Ken showed us videos of
> him in a MIG.
> Jon