On November 26, 1996, the United States recognized the German research institute Fraunhofer received a patent for the “digital encoding process”, the technology used in the MPEG Audio LAyer III, known as MP3. It was MP3 that paved the way for music in the digital world by allowing you to create high quality but highly compressed files so that a lot of music could fit on a single medium. One of the architects of this revolution was an Italian engineer, Leonardo Chiariglione.
In another post you can read the personal memory of that adventure that Chiariglione wrote a few days ago. Here we will try to frame the context of that exceptional story. In short, the Fraunhofer researchers had started studying how to compress digital music since 1977, but the real work began ten years later with the launch of a European project called EUREKA. The following year, a group of experts was created, the Moving Picture Expert Group, the MPEG. The initiative was by Hiroshi Yasuda of NTT and by Leonardo Chiariglione who at the time was at CSELT, the research center of Telecom Italia. Chiariglione led the MPEG from the first meeting, in Canada, in May 1988, to the end of the works in June 2020 (here the closing post of Chiariglione himself).
Trying to greatly simplify a story that is not technologically so, MPEG-1, launched in 1992, is a standard for video compression; MPEG-2, launched in 1994, is still about video but it was a step forward that allowed DVD quality; MPEG Layer III, known as MP3, was from 1996 and was all about sound.
In various reconstructions of that undertaking Chiariglione is not mentioned, preferring German researchers. But generally in the world he is referred to as “the father of MP3”. In 1999, TIME included him among the 50 innovators of the digital world.