Time, and technology, march forward. The first widely popular desktop application that played MP3 files, Winamp, is being shut down in December.
I first downloaded Winamp in December 1997. Pearl Jam had a new single, “Given To Fly,” that was getting airplay in advance of its official release. I kept reading on Pearl Jam discussion lists how you could listen to “radio rips” of the song if you had the right software1. I did some searching, found and installed Winamp, downloaded some incredibly compressed rips, and my digital music adventure was off and running.
I kept Winamp around for several years. In the early days, I had a collection of 30 or so Pearl Jam covers recorded at concerts. Eventually, once I discovered Napster and other downloading sites and began ripping my CDs to my hard drive, my library grew. But I believe I stuck with Winamp until our first Mac arrived in July 2004. A lot of good musical memories are wrapped up in that app.
I don’t recall it fondly because it was some great piece of software. It was pretty utilitarian, taking sound files and playing them. I was never into skinning my player the way some fans were. But it served a great purpose as I moved away from CDs and radio as my primary tools of music discovery and shifted to download sites, streaming radio, and eventually music blogs and the iTunes and Amazon music stores.
- I didn’t really know what a radio rip was, either. Man, were they awful back then, too. I remember the first I downloaded sounded like it was being played on a tiny speaker, shot through a cardboard tube, into a large, tiled room. In other words, it kind of sucked. ↩