Minimax Compact Disc (1990s – )

Minimax Compact Discs are generally CD singles which consist of a 3-inch playing area (equivalent to the mini CD single) surrounded by an area of translucent plastic (either clear or coloured) to make them full-size Compact Discs. The playable part of the disc conforms to Red Book standards.

On a normal Compact Disc, the reflective layer would continue to the edge of the disc, even if there was not enough music to fill it.

Because of the small playing area, minimax CDs can only hold a limited playing time (about 24 minutes maximum) and so have only been used for music singles or EPs.

They are very uncommon, presumably because of the extra expense in manufacturing them over a standard 5-inch CD single, but have been used for special edition singles, in much the same way as coloured vinyl records. It could be argued that the holographic CD is a form of minimax CD, as it is also formed of a mini CD single inside a larger area of plastic containing the holographic design.

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Holographic Compact Disc (1991 – 1996)

Holographic Compact Discs are standard Compact Discs with a holographic design incorporated into them. These appear on both sides of the disc, and the playing area is kept within the 3-inches of a mini CD single, limiting playing time. The playable part of the disc conforms to Red Book standards.

A handful of singles and interview discs were released, mostly between 1991 and 1993. Almost all releases were mastered by Nimbus and Applied Holographics.

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HitClips Disc (2003 – 2004)

HitClips Discs were another attempt to market the HitClips format that was introduced by Tiger Electronics in 1999.

Like HitClips, the system was marketed at children, and the players came in a variety of styles. HitClips Discs players could play HitClips, but the new Discs were not compatible with existing players.

Despite the name, HitClips Discs were still memory cards on a key ring, but were round in shape. Although the songs on the format were still edited versions, they were longer in length with up to 120 seconds available. They were still in mono, with poor sound quality, so after 100 years of progress we had a format that was pretty much equivalent in capacity and sound quality to the brown wax cylinder.

Around 22 songs were released on the format before it was discontinued.

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HitClips (1999 – 2003)

HitClips were a digital audio format for children, introduced by Tiger Electronics in 1999. The players came in a variety of styles, such as miniature boomboxes with a built in speaker, or versions that looked like an MP3 player and came with a earphone. They were very basic, with only a play button and no volume control.

The HitClips themselves consisted of small memory cards with a key ring, that contained a 1-minute edit of a single song in mono. Sound quality was very poor.

Just over 50 tracks on HitClip were released between 1999 and 2003, from artists including NSYNC, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Pink.

They were replaced by the very similar (but incompatible) HitClips Discs, which extended the brand for another year.

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10-inch single (1970s – )

The 10-inch single is a phonograph audio format played at 33⅓ or 45 rpm.

A handful of 10-inch singles were released in the 1970s, but although there were increasing numbers of releases in the 1980s it was never became very widespread, especially when compared with the 12-inch single.

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Coloured vinyl record (1949 – )

Coloured shellac phonograph records date back to the 1910s, on labels such as Vocalion, but coloured vinyl records began in 1949 with the launch of the 7-inch 45 rpm record by RCA Victor.

RCA Victor used different coloured vinyl to indicate which one of seven genres the recording was in, such as black for popular music, red for classical, green for country, and yellow for children’s records. The use of seven different coloured vinyls was expensive and was soon discontinued.

By the 1970s, coloured vinyls began to appear again as a promotional gimmick, and some releases were made on several different colours. LPs, 7-inch and 12-inch singles have used coloured vinyl since then. In addition to solid colours, some releases have had multi-coloured, marbled or swirled effects.

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Shaped 7-inch single (1980s -)

Shaped vinyl phonograph records were usually based on 7-inch singles, and were most popular in the 1980s

They normally consist of a grooved centre, usually the same size as a standard 7-inch single, but with a large non-grooved outer rim that can be cut in various shapes without affecting the grooved area. The shaped vinyl often came in the form of a picture disc, something that was heavily promoted by UK record companies in the mid-1980s.

In some cases, the grooved area was smaller than on a standard 7-inch single, which meant the record would not play on automatic or semi-automatic turntables.

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USB flash drive audio (2006 – )

USB flash drives were originally intended for data storage, but since 2006 have been used by a number of artists for distributing both albums and singles.

In addition to playing the files on a computer, many home audio systems and car stereo head units, and more recently television sets, are now equipped with a USB port that allows a USB flash drive containing media files in a variety of formats to be played directly.

The first USB album to be released in the UK was ‘Kiss Does… Rave’, a compilation album released by the Kiss Network in April 2007, and the first single was ‘Nothing in My Way’ by Keane in October 2006. The Official Chart Company in the UK counts USB flash drive sales towards chart placings for both singles and albums.

As well as the music, the USB flash drive can contain bonus content such as music videos, and the drive itself can come in customised shapes and colours.

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5-inch picture disc single (1980s)

5-inch picture disc singles were a type of phonograph record and were usually special editions of standard 7-inch singles, often in unusual shapes. Almost all the mainstream releases were produced in the 1980s.

Due to their small size, audio quality was compromised, and they will not play on automatic or semi-automatic turntables.

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7-inch single (1949 – )

The 7-inch 45 rpm vinyl record was a phonograph disc format introduced by RCA Victor in 1949, to compete with Columbia’s 33⅓ rpm 10-inch and 12-inch long-playing records.

Like the 33⅓ rpm record, the 7-inch 45 rpm record used microgrooves, allowing a similar playing time to the 10-inch 78 rpm records it partly replaced.

RCA initially used eight different colours of vinyl to indicate the genre of the music, with popular releases on black vinyl, children’s records on yellow vinyl and classical music on red vinyl for example. This didn’t continue as coloured vinyl was more expensive to produce, although coloured vinyl is still used for some special editions by different record companies.

Until 1950, a ‘War of the Speeds’ took place, and consumers were unsure which of the two new formats would prevail. In the end, the 12-inch long-play (LP) record became the predominant format for music albums, while the 7-inch 45 rpm become predominant format for singles, with a song on each side.

The 7-inch 45 rpm format was also used for the Extended Play (EP) record from 1952, which achieved up to 7½ minutes of playing time per side at the expense of lower volume by reducing the width of the grooves. These generally contained between three and six songs.

Outside of the US, 7-inch singles generally had small centre holes, like an LP, but a central section could be punched out (such as for use in jukeboxes). Inserts or adaptors were available to allow the use of 7-inch singles with a larger centre hole to be used in standard record players. Many record players of the 1950s and 60s had a tall centre spindle that allowed records to be stacked, to play a number of 7-inch singles in sequence.

In the UK, sales of the new 7-inch single format surpassed those of the 78 rpm record by 1958. By the 1980s however, 7-inch vinyl records were competing with cassette singlesCD singles, and later with downloads, and by 2012 accounted for around 0.1% of all single sales, although this still represented sales of around 96,000 copies.

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Preservation / Migration