An Ode to Winamp

By Eric Limer on at

Today's the day. Winamp is officially kicking the bucket. Well the day it was supposed to, but maybe not? Either way, the peppy little player that really whips the llama's ass has been fading into obscurity for years now, and on (probably) the day of its final demise, let's reflect.

Winamp is one of the first programmes I remember customising; really digging into and toying with. Looking back, the ability to easily customise colour combinations is far from revelatory, but at the time (and for me, someone who spent a lot of time doing stuff like using Visual Basic to code crappy animations I'd created frame-by-frame in MS Paint) it felt like an incredible vehicle for artistic expression. Black and neon green? Hell yeah! I'm a 1337 h4xor, d00ds.

And the visualisations. It's impossible to forget the visualisations. I can clearly remember, with astonishing vividness, sitting at the family computer desk listening to the Mechwarrior 2 soundtrack with a Winamp visualisation of an X-Wing barreling down an endless tunnel of blackness outlined by pulsing, wispy trails of light, on its way to the centre of some impossibly massive Death Star, a trip to an unreachable and unimaginably radiant power core. I remember watching—enraptured—for what seems like it must have been hours on end, knowing there was nothing coming, no end, but unable to stop fantasising.

I was a pretty weird kid.

But beyond the skins, beyond the visualisations, the flashing lights and llama's whipped ass, there was the radio. Good old fashioned Shoutcast radio. A playlist curated not by an algorithm, but by some flesh-and-blood lunatic with ostensibly discerning and eclectic tastes. Some crazy streaming devotee sitting in an unfinished basement, no doubt dreaming of the pirate radio station he'd never gotten around to building. No, this would have to be good enough.

And so when I was sitting in my parents' living room on New Years Eve 2004, playing Half-Life 2: Deathmatch on the brand new e-Machines PC we'd gotten for Christmas, Winamp was there too. In the background, behind the full-screen glory of toilets slung from gravity guns, Winamp sang me a hooky "la da da la di da da da" that I still whistle to myself all these years later. God only knows what anonymous Shoutcast DJ queued it up, but the song and the snapshot memory have stuck with me ever since. Together they've won Winamp a place in my heart.

Goodnight sweet prince.

You can download a last (official!) copy of Winamp here, hope against all hope that Winamp might make it through the day here, and share your own dramatic, over-written Winamp memories below. Please do. Put me to shame.