My adult professional life has been spent involved in making computer
software in one form or another. Back in the '90s I ran into a little
program that played mp2 files. Not mp3 but mp2. A little more
digging yielded program that would convert CD data into an mp2 file.
At the time, this was mind blowing. A song as a file on a disk?
Little did I know.
I've always had a substantial music collection so I busily set about
writing scripts to convert my CDs to mp2 files. The encoder was crazy
slow. It would take about 20 minutes per song. So my scripts ran
multiple encoders on various idle cpus in the office. Eventually, I
(and my colleagues) had built a collection of about 16GB. Peanuts by
today's standards but we did this on disk that was priced at more than
a dollar per MB.
Now the mp2 player was not like what we have now. It was a command
line thing that just played a single file. Which meant I had to write
a program that would allow the user to play music from our collection.
I set out to write the simplest thing that did what I wanted. It
would have a pause/play button, next, previous. It would play tracks
in a random order. It would not repeat. That was the first version.
Basically a very oversized shuffle (a file server, my workstation and
some networking gear). (For the language geeks, I did this GUI in
dtksh which was essentially ksh with hooks to the Xt toolkit)
Now listening to your collection in shuffle mode is fine but
occasionally something comes on from the middle of a great album work
like, say, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. You didn't know it
until that moment but you want to listen to the whole album. So I
added a button called "This Album".
Clicking "This Album" would stop shuffling and play the album from
start to finish and then resume shuffling at the song after the one
that caused you to hit the button in the first place. The
next/previous buttons now moved through the tracks of that release.
Fast forward a decade or more and I have that much music and more on
my iPod which normally lives in my car and plays in shuffle mode. I
am stunned to think that in all that time nobody else has had this
idea. Why do I need to risk a car crash when I decide that I want to
listen to all of Radiohead's OK Computer, just because Let Down just
came on planting the idea...
There are those asking today if the album is dead. Perhaps "This
Album" might help.