In the beginning of the twenty-first century, before the smart phones, a new consumer electronics device started to show up in some households. The portable mp3 players. Digital music in your pockets for real. To many, the Apple ipod was the first device that showed the potential but already before that model, other manufacturers and brands had already released some devices.
One of the first mp3 players on the market was the "Archos Player" with its massive 6 GB hard drive. My brother Björn and our common friend Linus purchased these devices, only to soon realize that while the device was nice, the software was lacking several features you would think such a device should be able to provide. How hard would it be to write our own replacement?
The challenge truly piqued our curiosity. With a lot of reverse engineering and hard work, we figured out how to replace the software in the devices with one we wrote ourselves. We then took on other similar devices and within a few years Rockbox was a fully Open Source mp3 player firmware replacement that worked on several dozens of different portable music players from a handful of different brands. Rockbox was a tiny, simple operating system made to just have a music player application run. Albeit an application that could run games, including doom (of course), have better battery life than the factory firmware and support many more music and audio formats than the original software did.
We had physical annual developer meetups during several years where Rockbox contributors from all over the world would unite to hack on code and have a good time over a weekend.
When the smart phones eventually entered and swiftly conquered the portable music world, the concept and use of mp3 players faded away and so did my personal interest in the Rockbox project. I officially stopped participating in 2014, but by then I was not doing much. I continued to host and run servers and infrastructure for the project until late 2021.
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