ASCII by Jason Scott

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Memories of a Scoundrel —

While I’m mucking about in Napster-era land, I did want to harken back and give some regard to a little program that popped up in the middle of the peer-to-peer boom times that really got my attention. It was called Scoundrel, and at the time, it really opened my eyes to where things were going.

At the time, we had Amazon, which was a massive repository of not just books and music to buy, but information about that music. Covers, track listings, reviews, and in some cases preview snippets were all in one place. In another realm, we had napster and napster-like servers (OpenNap comes to mind) with lots of various MP3 files, often divested of creator information, and of variant quality. (MP3 tags, a hack that brings to mind the SAUCE format of ANSI, later made nomenclature easier).

Scoundrel combined them, earning its name exquisitely. It would allow you to browse an Amazon page about an album, read up on it, and with a single click, send a smart agent off monitoring various napster/napster-like services, looking around for all the tracks, and keep doing so until it had acquired all the tracks it could, leaving you with an MP3 rendition of the chosen album.

It had some good extensible ideas, like a nod towards plugins for sites other than Amazon, and for services other than Napster. It had some strong potential to become the bridging program behind a lot of sites that were, inherently, vicious rivals in the wild. It was something else.

Here’s a mirror of that original Scoundrel site, with some overviews of what was at play, ways to use the program, forward-looking statements and the rest. How kind of that fellow to keep a copy around!

I wasn’t the only one enamored of this project, either; here’s a nice rant regarding Scoundrel and what it meant to the author at the time.

Most notably, a little while into the project, the creator disappeared. The rant mentions this and I’ll mention it too. He up and left, telling us we’d never see him again. To quote specifically:

“Well, so much for what scoundrel has and has not done. As of today, March 1st, 2001, I will no longer be able to continue development on Scoundrel. I’ll be disappearing from the face of the earth and will not be reachable. I will not go into the reasons behind this.”

Now that’s a short goodbye!

I am sure one day we might find out who did it, or not… but either way, I remember the “holy crap” aspect of Scoundrel’s appearance, and even though integration and interaction have become nearly standardized (and they call them “mashups” now, in between sips of diet cola), this one really blew me away, way back when. Truly, that’s all we can ask of scoundrels.

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