U4ia Mods

Writing about Netscape 1.0 yesterday got me thinking about pre-Web computer fun. Set the wayback machine for 1991…

Although university students might have been able to access the Internet at the time, the only online experience most people had was on computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). For those without the BBS experience, it’s a bit hard to describe just what it was like. On the Web it is so easy to jump from site to site. For each BBS you would normally need to dial up and connect to each system. Depending on the system, you’d often find message boards, files to download, and sometimes games to play. You could also talk in real-time with other connected users. On a small BBS that would likely be just the SysOp.

I still remember the day I found music online. I’d powered up my trusty 386 PC and 2400 baud modem. I connected to a Lexington BBS and looked through the new files. The description of one surprised me, it said it could play multipart music through a PC speaker (at the time—like many PCs—I didn’t have a sound card).

I believe the program was called ModPlay and I was very impressed that it did was it said. My PC speaker, formerly home to simple beeps, burst forth with stunning four-part sound. Amazing! Apparently the PC processor was finally powerful enough and fast enough that it could process digital music and drive the speaker. I later found a PC speaker driver for Windows 3.1 that could do the same magic with WAV files (by maxing out the CPU.)

The ModPlay program was an impressive feat and it lead me to search for additional MOD files. MOD files originated with the Commodore Amiga SoundTracker program. They contain digital samples and describe how to play them back. Each sample, or instrument, can be played back at a specified pitch and distortion on one of four channels.

The novelty of playing real music on my PC got me to try various MOD files. The most impressive were created by Jim Young, who went by the name U4ia. Sometime last year I got thinking about those MODs and set out to find them again. Here’s all of the U4ia MODs. I’ve grateful that U4ia freely gave away all this music. Surprisingly, WinAmp can play MOD files and they unsurprisingly sound far better than they did through my crummy PC speaker. Cool! I believe my favorite is “i’ll be waiting 4 u” (waiting.mod), although I enjoy many others, like “teddy bear boogie” and “this heart beats 4u”. Check them out. Perhaps you’ll become a fan of U4ia, too.

Living on Netscape Time

With recent development schedules and the many projects I’m trying to do outside work, I feel like I’m once again living on Netscape Time. It’s at once exhilarating and exhausting. One wonders whether Netscape would still be around as a dominate force if it had kept up its frantic release cycle. I remember those early years of the Web and the ever-present excitement during the Browser Wars. Mozilla generates similar enthusiasm and executes nearly as quickly, but has a huge installed base to challenge.

Early Netscape developers used the phrase “We’re Doomed!” as a way to get beyond the paralyzing enormity of their tasks. (Jamie Zawinski’s diary entries from the Netscape dorm during the development of 1.0 provide color commentary for the use of the phrase.) If you hear me saying “We’re Doomed!” it means I’m afraid there’s no possible way we can:

  1. Get done on time.
  2. Get done with acceptable quality.

And yet we’re going to do it anyway and get it done well. I hope. That probably sounds insane to those of you who have never done software development.

Put another way, like many webloggers, I have NADD.