Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 12/10/2004 So, farewell then, Winamp. Goodbye forever, Audion.

Friday 12/10/2004
So, farewell then, Winamp. Goodbye forever, Audion. This week has seen the final gasp from both -- the two MP3 players that got the ball rolling on PCs and Macs respectively have ceased development. Both still work really well, of course, and I for one can't see Winamp leaving my computer any time soon, but the giant space baboon of commerce has eaten them up and spat 'em out.

In Winamp's case, a mid-life crisis compounded by founder company Nullsoft being bought by AOL left the software writers floating on a sea of cash but with a product that had thoroughly lost direction by the time Windows Media Player got serious. With Audion, iTunes and the impossibility of fully supporting the iPod did the stake through the heart bit.

Both deserve iconic status - and I'm sure posterity will award it. For me, Winamp symbolises the raw excitement and sense of revolution that I got when I first hooked broadband, Napster and a fat PC together -- there was an audible pop as the genie surged out of the bottle, and a feeling that something fantastic was just about to run completely out of control. Like all revolutions, it was soon reined in by those who are good at such things and an element of normality has been restored -- but the rules have been changed for good.

There was more. A laptop with Winamp made a bloody good party animal accoutrement, and my inveterate nerdery became just that bit cooler. It was also good for impressing young women: no more breaking the, er, natural order of an evening to change CDs. Nope, a few minutes spent preparing a playlist or two and the food of love would play on no matter what was going on.

Everyone knows this now. It's no more impressive than owning a music centre with a smoked plexiglass lid, and who cares that you've got your entire CD collection just a mouse click away? But for a while, Winamp -- and Audion, for the Mac lads -- made us all part of the future. For that, I will be forever grateful.