ERIC THEISE was our original Internet guide and guru. Soon after we started posting text files of our radio playlists on the pioneer Bay area online conferencing site The Well in 1992, he offered to setup a "Gopher Server" to make our playlists available worldwide. It took him a really long time to explain to us what the Internet was and how it was possible for people in Minnesota to see our playlists on their computers. Those files are still out there somewhere.
In 1994, Eric started a local ISP and designed our first web site, with graphics, hyperlinks, and a home page banner we produced in house using 3D software. We thought it was really cool. Eric faithfully posted our playlists to the site every week for several years before moving on to an Internet startup company during the boom years.
In 1995, our site was redesigned by FLORENT WENDLING, who added navigation, created various graphic elements and an animated GIF logo, which we thought was unbelievably cool. The content expanded considerably, and in 1996 our new network manager MATT STEVENS began to post the playlists and maintain the site.
Matt introduced us to the concept of a dynamic content site, where most of the information is stored in databases and turned into web pages on-the-fly. We thought it was a great idea, but we didn't implement it until 1999, when JOSEPH JACOBS, who succeeded Matt as our network manager, began building the source databases in Filemaker Pro. (We are proud Macintosh loyalists.) After a few false starts, we found RAINES COHEN who signed on as our new Internet guru and helped us to connect our Filemaker databases to the web using Lasso for page generation and Ch-Ching for our online store. It worked, but Amazon did it a lot better, so in 2001 we moved all our mail order fulfillment to Amazon.com.
Even though we had an in-house design department for doing our CD packaging and marketing graphics, we had never done any web design. After some meetings with expensive, overworked web designers, we decided to stop wimping out, learn HTML and the other protocols that make web sites work, and build the entire site ourselves. JEREMY HULETTE, our in-house graphic designer from March 1997 till 2000, plunged in and designed and built the graphics, structure, and navigation of the new site. Go Live 4.0, ImageReady 2.x, and BBEdit 5.1 were the main tools for the job.
In 1999, energized by the potential of new technology and a steady stream of requests from listeners, we began serious research into Internet streaming of our archive of radio shows since 1983. We literally got our analog and digital tapes out of the closet and brought them online, and in August 2001 we launched the Hearts of Space ARCHIVE as a major new section of the site and began offering access to these programs by subscription. We used Real Audio format in mono for dialup subscribers and high quality stereo for broadband users. SPEEDERA (now part of AKAMAI) was our original streaming provider — an excellent Content Delivery Network. LOU JUDSON did the transfers of our source tapes; we did all the encoding in house using BarbaBatch on a Mac G4 and Awave Audio on the PC.
In 2004 we launched our second generation version of the Archive, which used Windows Media for streaming and a faster database-driven site. We bought our own streaming servers and co-located them on the STREAMGUYS content delivery network. KIRIKI DELANY of Streamguys has been a great ally who has saved us money and made our business work better. We tie it all together with software and services from ENTRIQ for our media management, user accounts, log in, authorization, credit card transactions and customer care.
By 2007 we were having increasing problems supporting Windows Media streams in the ever-changing world of operating systems and browsers. After much deliberation we decided to move to Flash as our streaming format, the technology behind MySpace and YouTube. It's fast, flexible, powerful, and much easier to support.
Early in 2008 we hired Bay Interactive to develop a custom Flash player, and began to re-encode everything in the Archive into the AAC and AACplus formats. Along with improved sound quality and new features like unlimited personal playlists, we decided it was time to offer our programs without the voiceover announcements for completely uninterrupted listening, so LOU JUDSON came back and expertly baked, cleaned and transferred several hundred analog music track tapes from the first ten years of the program. Now one click and poof! no voiceovers.
In August 2010, we revised the underlying architecture of the site to replace our aging HTML "frames" with newer "iFrame" technology. At the same time we upgraded the visual design of the site to a semi-transparent "heads-up display" for a spatial experience that's congruent with the music.
All in all, it's been a complex, character-building experience to have taken over the design and management of our web site. Despite the chaotic birth pains of Internet music, the site is now the center of our work, our business and our platform for the future. We hope you find it helpful in learning about the music we program and broadcast, and we solicit your feedback so we can improve it. There's a lot more we can do and we're excited by the challenge.
We agree with the farseeing JIM GRIFFIN that music is moving from being a product to a service. We've been at this since 1973, and we have tried to operate in that spirit since the beginning. The Internet is finally providing us with the means.