Karlheinz Brandenburg, born in 1955, developed the MP3 format that compresses digital music files to about 12-8% of its original size. Small enough to allow easy downloading of songs over the Internet.

Brandenburg's road to MP3 began as an electrical engineering student in 1980. The digital music revolution was still far off; IBM started selling their first Personal Computer in 1981 and two years later music compact discs developed by Sony and Philips appeared.

In the early days, it took him 10 hours to decode a minute of digital music, something now done almost instantaneously.

After years of hard work, Brandenburg became lead researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute of Integrated Circuits near Munich and received a doctorate for his compression work.

In 1990, the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor news organization became the first to use compressed digital audio to feed sound to radio stations.

The engineer was one of hundreds in Germany, the United States and elsewhere researching compression. But Brandenburg's work on Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) layer-3, later known as MP3, emerged as the standard after a new generation of faster computers in 1995 became able to decode compressed music in real time.