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NEC in Japan has developed a credit-card- sized chip that can store 24 minutes of sound. Called Silicon Audio, it is carried like a Walkman, but has no moving parts. The total storage of each card is 32 megabytes, which would normally only be enough to store three minutes, but NEC has found a way to compress the digital sound data by a factor of eight. The cost of each card now is ú1400, but NEC expects to sell them by the year 2000 for ú90 a piece, and expects the storage capacity to increase to 90 minutes. The electronics giant sees a new way of buying music developing. Consumers would buy Silicon Audio cards like phonecards with credits. They would then go to the music store and use up their credits, downloading music on to the card.

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