We are coming up on the 20th anniversary of this blog. Or at least the original site the current iteration grew from. I’m sure I’ll whip together something to commemorate the proper anniversary in June.

This morning I saw an article about podcasts and got to thinking about my history with them, which was somewhat tied to my blogging history.

I’m pretty sure I first learned about podcasts sometime in early 2005. I was a loyal reader of Macworld at the time (RIP print computer magazines), and there was a How To article that spring about recording your own podcast.[1] I was fascinated! You could make your own radio show and share it with the world with a minimum of hardware or expense? This was right up my alley, especially as a stay-at-home dad with a lot of free time who loved music and was also exploring the world of new media as a journalism graduate student.

I began downloading various “pod catching” apps – iTunes did not directly support podcasting yet – and tested them to find my favorites. I dug through the directories on each app to find the coolest pods to check out. Some were about the concept/process of podcasting (The Daily Source Code), but most were music pods: random dudes (always dudes) playing music for the world. Insomnia Radio and Never Mind the Bollocks were two of my early favorites.

Again, dead center of my alley of interest.

I looked into investing in some modest equipment to create my own podcast. Then I realized I could do it perfectly fine with what I already had: my Mac’s built-in microphone and GarageBand.

One day in early April I dropped M off at my in-laws for a playdate with her Mimi, bought myself a large coffee, sat down in front of that clunky eMac, and recorded the first episode of Carmel Liberation Radio. I kept that pod going for over ten years. Eventually I got a good microphone, but other than that all 337 transmissions were recorded by plugging into whatever Mac was sitting in front of me and its built-in software.

This was back in the day when the Web Sheriff would scrutinize the podcast world, looking for programs that used music without proper clearance. Usually they issued a polite but stern takedown warning. Occasionally people got sued for copyright infringement. I wanted nothing to do with that so kept my pod invitation only, first on Apple’s .Mac service, later via a Blogger site I turned off search engine indexing for. At its peak, 40–50 people got the notification that a new pod was available; a much smaller subset actually listened to it.

All that seems funny now, because A) I wasn’t trying to make money off the podcast, B) I had legally purchased most of the songs I played, and C) at some point record labels finally realized that podcasts are free advertising in a world where it was harder and harder to make money and backed off the takedowns.

When I saw that article this morning and started thinking about my own podcasting past, it also got me thinking about how cool the 2000s were for personal technology. From the rise of Apple via the iPod and the iTunes Store to the introduction of the iPhone, that decade seemed to be moving very quickly with new products that brought exciting new opportunities. It was fun to be on the early end of that process, when crude, DIY efforts ruled the day as corporations were figuring out what their strategies should be.

Podcasts are an integral part of my life now. There are several I listen to weekly, while others cycle in-and-out of my feed based on my interests of the moment. They soundtrack my gym visits, my work around the house, and help me to fall asleep at night. Even the lowest budget of them sound great and have solid production values. Hell, my girls all made podcasts in middle school for group reading assignments and they sounded decent. A huge improvement from the days of a couple people sharing a microphone on a coffee table while playing their favorite songs or discussing their favorite team.

I often have the itch to get back into podcasting. Ideally it would be an updated take on Carmel Liberation Radio. In the streaming era, though, it’s harder to get those individual tracks lined up into a unique playlist with your own audio in between. My Friday Playlists kind of fill that void, although with text instead of voice comments. I still have that microphone, though, so you never know…

Oh, I was digging back through the archives and it looks like this piece was the first time I ever wrote about podcasts. I posted it about a month before I launched CLR.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I also found my notes from that very first CLR transmission. I carefully scripted the entire thing. In time I would record with a loose set of notes about the songs I shared and come up with my thoughts on the fly.

I have recreated that first playlist for you here. I closed most transmissions with a cover. That is the only track I’m missing here, a cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Born on a Train” performed by Arcade Fire on KCRW. If you are a completion-ist, you can find that here.

  1. If you pay attention to such things, you might notice that is from June’s Macworld. For some reason computer magazines were always arrived like three months before their official published date, so I would have received that sometime in March.  ↩