Under The Microscope

Archive for March, 2023

The RIAA v. Steve Jobs

It may be difficult to imagine, but back at the turn of the millennium, the simple right to record audio on your computer was not well-established. Though the precedent of time shifting existed for television, space shifting was still an emerging idea. RIAA, the acronym for the Recording Industry Association of America, had become something of a four-letter word as a result of their hostility toward new ideas. In addition to shutting down Napster, they also attempted to squash the first hardware MP3 player.

This had an impact on our marketing for the first version of Audio Hijack. Rather than focusing on the app’s recording functionality, we highlighted use cases like adding an equalizer to movies. We knew recording was useful, but the app’s ability to apply audio effects anywhere on the Mac carried much less legal peril.

At that time, our sales were slow enough that we often skimmed incoming orders to learn about who was buying. On September 30, 2003, exactly one year after we opened our virtual doors, an order with an RIAA email address came through. That put a damper on our first anniversary celebrations, as we had full knowledge of the organization’s litigious history. We were naturally concerned that they were aware of our product. Unfortunately, there was nothing for us to do but feel uneasy and await their next move.

It never came. We never heard a word from the RIAA, nor their lawyers. As time passed without any trouble, we eventually came to assume that they recognized our tool’s many legitimate fair uses. We continued development of Audio Hijack, leaning in to its audio recording abilities. That focus led to it being a premier solution for podcasters, both then and now.

Earlier this month, however, we heard a chilling story. It comes from the Podfather himself, Adam Curry, who was instrumental in helping podcasts take off in the mid-2000s. He’s also a long-time Audio Hijack user and supporter, one who provided us with many helpful suggestions in the early years. Recently, Adam gave an interview detailing his efforts to modernize the podcasting format. Therein, he told a story about the origins of podcasts in iTunes, and a conversation he had with Steve Jobs circa 2005:

And in that very meeting, Steve asked: “How do you do your recording?”. We didn’t really have any tools to record, there was not much going on at the time. But the Mac had an application called Audio Hijack Pro, and it was great because we could create audio chains with compressors, and replicate a bit of studio work.

Eddy Cue said: “The RIAA wants us to disable Audio Hijack Pro, because with it you could record any sound off of your Mac, any song, anything”. Steve then turned to me and said: “Do you need this to create these podcasts?”. I said: “Currently, yes!”. So Steve Jobs told them to get lost, and I thought: “Hey man, thanks, Steve’s on my side. That’s cool.”

Even 18 years on, I find this story rather terrifying. If not for an offhand conversation in which we had no involvement, things could have turned out very differently for our company.

Properly Displaying Ancient Interfaces

As part of the unveiling of our Historic Screenshot Archive, I made some fun images to post to our social media accounts. Making those images was tricky, because interfaces were much smaller in the pre-Retina era. Here is how big a screenshot and app icon from 2002 displays on a Retina screen of today:

A very small and ancient screenshot
Screen resolution has increased so much that a once full-sized app window is tiny on modern displays.

The above screenshot of Audio Hijack’s main window, at a bit over 400 pixels wide, is smaller than even app icons of today, which can be as large as 1024 pixels wide.

I needed to scale the screenshot up by many hundreds of percent to be a useful size for a social media post. Enlarging with interpolation, however, turned the pixels into an ugly blur:

Enlarged with Lanczos interpolation, usually great for photos, this screenshot is too blurry.

So instead, I did a two-step dance. First, I exported the screenshot enlarged to 1000% using blocky nearest-neighbour interpolation. Next, I dropped that in my design app and resized it down to the size I needed:

This is more like it!

To be clear, we only ran this process on the social media images, like this one:

The social image for Audio Hijack. The effect is hard to notice at this size, but at some of the larger sizes it makes a big difference.

The screenshots you’ll find in the actual archive are unmodified. But thanks to this little trick, I could display old screenshots in all their pixely glory, even on Retina screens.

Come Visit the Rogue Amoeba Historic Screenshot Archive

20 years ago today, on March 3, 2003, Rogue Amoeba released Audio Hijack Pro 1.0. This was a crucial event in the company’s history, as sales grew substantially, taking Rogue Amoeba from a hobby to a viable business.

On this anniversary, it seems fitting for us to unveil something else special: the Rogue Amoeba Historic Screenshot Archive. It’s an in-depth collection of images and information about key versions from our 20+ years in business, and we think it’s well worth a look.

Read on for more details, or just click above to enter the archive.


For many years, noted Mac collector Stephen Hackett has done wonderful work with the MacOS Screenshot Library. The library offers screenshots of the Mac’s operating system dating back to the Mac OS X Public Beta in 2000, and we’re such fans that Rogue Amoeba has sponsored it for several years now. It‘s often helpful as a reference, but it’s also simply enjoyable to look back at the way things once were.

Amazingly, Rogue Amoeba’s own story dates back nearly as far as Mac OS X’s. We opened our virtual doors in 2002, and since then, we’ve shipped nearly 1,000 different versions across our product lineup. Given that amount of history, we thought it would be both useful and fun to document our own products.

Late last year, we asked Stephen if he’d help us spin up our own archive. He was up for the challenge, so we provided him with a pile of important releases, and he set to work documenting them with his array of old Macs. When Stephen was done, he provided us with a large collection of screenshots, sorted by product and version.

Ancient, pinstriped screenshots of Airfoil 1 and Audio Hijack 1

Our team then curated these images and built a way to show them off. We created galleries for each product and dug up details and stories about each individual update. It was a lot of work, but the end result feels weighty, a worthwhile repository of much of our company’s history.

Come On In

Now, the full archive is ready for viewing. There’s a whole lot of fun history to read about and of course fascinating images to see. Grab some crudités and a beverage, then step inside:

Visit the Archive →

We hope you enjoy seeing the evolution of our products over two decades and counting. We plan to keep the archive updated with future versions, so don’t hesitate to share your feedback.

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