Two technologies have become so prevalent recently that facilitate the quick and cheap production of high-density portable audio formats. I'm talking about the growth in popularity of the MP3 compressed audio file format and the prevalence of CD-ROM creation hardware and media. Napster's and other MP3 audio sharing companies, web sites and software demonstrate the incredible popularity of the format. The copyright laws are irrelevant in this matter because whether they exist or not has proven to impede MP3 distribution not in the least. CD-ROM writers or 'CD burners' have decreased in price to well under the $100 level and because of this millions of people are either upgrading by purchasing one or are purchasing a computer that already comes pre-bundled with one. These two factors provide for the cost effective and common duplication of CD-ROM's containing MP3 files.

Two other technologies facilitate the consumption of such CD-ROMs. CD-ROM drives, though complicated devices have dropped in price to the point where portable CD player's are available for $15. MP3s also require a lower read-bit-rate off of the CD than do normal red-book audio CDs so a slower (and hence cheaper) CD player will provide enough data bandwidth to read MP3s in real-time as they are played. MP3 decoding has become such a specialized field that single chips the size of a coin can fully decode MP3's of any bit-rate. This provides for the inexpensive, compact and portable reproduction of MP3 audio read from CD-ROMs.

Currently MP3-CD creation can be and is done by many people. Crossing over into the portable player market for MP3-CDs has just begun however and the market is being hit with an extreme drought in this area. Many people are purchasing MP3 players that play off of flash memory, which costs more than $1 per megabyte. Meanwhile, as I've stated the technology is available and ready to play MP3-CDs; CD media costing less than a tenth of a cent per megabyte provides and obvious benefit to every-thrifty consumers.

In this project we set out and attained the goal of designing and implementing a prototype of a MP3-CD player that could easily be made portable using a generic computer CD-ROM drive, an Atmel Atmega103 microcontroller on an STK-300 prototype board, an MP3 decoder chip (an Stmicroelectronics STA013), a stereo 24-bit oversampling DAC (a Crystal Semiconductors CS4334) and a 24 character x 2 line display.