The True Story of Audion


As a long-time Mac nerd, I remember fondly the introduction of Audion, an early MP3 player application for the classic Mac OS (and later Mac OS X). It sounded good, it looked great, and the best part was that the application's developers (Panic Inc.) seemed to have a sense of humor. I remember one of my favorite features was a speed control feature that allowed you to "Chipmunk" any song at will. It was also the first time I saw album cover art stored in an MP3, which kinda blew my mind. (Hey, it was 2001, I was still young and impressionable.)

For several years, Audion was my MP3 player of choice -- all of this was before the iPod, when "MP3" was still a term that confounded your parents. (I remember when my brother showed me his little blue MP3 player one year at Christmas. I asked, "Who's gonna want one of those?" Sigh.) As iTunes and the iPod rose to dominate the Mac MP3 market, Panic discontinued Audion in late 2002.

But there's an amazing story behind Audion, and Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser lets us in on the whole thing. From its modest inception (as a replacement for the old Apple "CD Player" application) through rivalry with SoundJam and finally a meeting with Steve Jobs himself, the story is well worth a read, even for non-nerds. Be sure to click on the links embedded throughout -- Sasser includes lots of popup windows with concept art and other interesting bits and pieces. Here's a tiny sample:

I couldn't help myself. I'd always heard that Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, actually reads his e-mail. When you're a tiny independent Mac software developer, that's about as tempting a proposal as, say, a young surgeon being able to directly e-mail Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Okay, so he's not the surgeon general anymore, but my point is that when you're down in the trenches — writing software for a platform you pretty much completely worship — well, it's pretty hard to resist e-mailing God if you know He checks his e-mail. So e-mail I did. When Audion 1.0 came out on August 16th, 1999, I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Jobs a few days later. It was very quick, cordial, and to the point (my own bursting e-mail box has taught me to be succinct). It pitched Audion in a few short sentences, and encouraged him to download it. That was it.

Read what happened next in the exciting Audion saga. While you're at it, check out the many handy applications Panic still ships.