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The Newfangled mp3 player music thing has gone way too far. I recommend a "back to the basics" approach with the most retro audio technology I can imagine: the 78 RPM Cylinder Record! I imagine the music industry would embrace this and start releasing mini-78 LPs...
The last century of progress can't
be disregarded, of course:
This system is a miniaturized portable wind-up record player with precision gears and governors to keep the record from skipping as you jog. The needle can be mechanical or some sort of optical interferometer mechanism. The system also has an electronic amplifier and a regular headphone jack. [If we wanted to go completely steampunk, I suppose we could do a clockwork dynamo for the amplifier, or a hollow-tube stethoscope-like headset with no electronics whatsoever]
I imagine it should be possible to fit an hour or so of music onto a 2-3 inch long cylinder with modern technology.
MP78R, MP78RW, MP78R+W and MP78R-W recordable media and USB recording dock sold separately!
An earlier demonstration of this technology [pocmloc, May 18 2010]
||And powered by a miniature steam engine?
||clockworks my boy. Wind the mainspring just like in the old record players.
||Sugar Puffs, I think, (A UK brand of Wheat/Honey-based breakfast cereal) had a promotion years ago where they gave a way a serrated strip of plastic. When you ran your nails along its length you could hear (or rather, just make out) famous speeches.