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HP Unveils Punched Card To MP3 Ripper
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PALO ALTO, California - In response to overwhelming demand from former DEC customers now being supported by Hewlett-Packard, HP has created CardMe, a device to copy files stored on punched cards to modern devices such as hard drives. "All of my music from the 60's and early 70's is on punched cards," said Arnold Waybeck, "And at 37,000 cards per song, it's an unwieldy collection." Waybeck was a tester for prototypes of CardMe. "The early versions were pretty raw. Cards got stuck, even destroyed. But the release version is boss," said Waybeck.

"It was a completely undiscovered market," admitted HP CEO Carly Fiorina, "We just didn't realize people were out there listening to music on old DEC card-readers." Digital Equipment Corporation never released a product designed to play music, but an underground hacker culture formed on college campuses in the late 60's and early 70's. These hackers spent hours rewiring stereos, radios, computers, and card-readers to allow them to record and play back digital music. "You've never experienced music until you've seen it pulsing through a vacuum tube," reminisced Waybeck, "For me, this is like coming alive again."

To recapture the era, CardMe utilizes original-spec hardware for the card reader and actual vacuum tubes for the processing. "It doesn't take a vast amount of processing power to read these cards and render the sound," explained HP engineer Wayne N. Kuhreer, "So vacuum tubes suffice for speed. And without them, the users complained that they weren't getting the same ambience." After the cards are transferred to the PC, a USB connection allows the PC to pump the music data back through CardMe to recreate the vacuum tube effect.

"I'm sorry, but I think sometimes you just have to move on," said eighteen-year-old Sara Jetter, when told about the CardMe product, "I mean, I used to listen to CD's, but when MP3's came along, I didn't cling to the past. These guys need to get with the program."

CardMe retails for $455 and comes with a USB cable, ripping software, and drivers for Windows XP and Linux. Other drivers and software are available on HP's web site.
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