16 Things I Remember About Napster

I first heard about Napster in 8th grade (aka, 1999). It sounded like the stuff dreams were made of – you mean I can download free music from my babysitter, The Internet? I sat in Social Studies shaking like a leaf with DTs. “Must. Get. To. Computer. Must. Download. Top. 40.”

That same day, I went home with a friend after school, and she asked me to choose whatever song I wanted. We were gonna download it! Holy shit. Her library had eight songs at the time, so choosing the song was simple, quick. I chose “Party Up” by DMX (…). Then we watched the song download at 7 KB/S. It was slow and painful, like boiling three gallons of water. But it was the first time I didn’t have to purchase some band’s shitty album just to hear that one song I liked. I ran home, downloaded Napster, and was addicted for life – or until it was shuttered in 2001. Here are the things I remember most about the OG P2P.

  1. Hearing an IM chime during a song and frantically checking all open IM windows before realizing that the IM was accidentally recorded along with whatever song I’d been listening to
  2. Downloading Soundgarden, Puddle of Mudd, early Pearl Jam songs that were labeled “~!RaRe!~ NIRVANA B-SIDE!~” and feeling disappointed / gullible afterward
  3. Remembering songs that I “HAD TO DOWNLOAD LATER” while I wasn’t at the computer; leading to a series of “scratch papers” that said things like, “Gurl in bumblebee suit, find out what that song is called”
  4. Getting booted from the Internet and having to start a download from scratch
  5. Searching for my name, “Stephanie,” and downloading every search result (they were all pretty bad; save for “Hey Stephanie!” by Gob and “Stephanie Says” by Velvet Underground)
  6. Downloading corrupted files that were half song and half screeching, scrambled white noise
  7. Refusing to download music from any user with a “T1” or “T3” connection despite having a 56K modem
  8. Thinking I was going to get arrested for pirating music and also thinking that Lars Ulrich was a greedy prick asshole
  9. Feeling heartbroken when someone with a cable modem canceled my 87% complete download
  10. Downloading hundreds of songs I’d never even heard of, just because I could; in turn, discovering ‘Rocked by Rape’ by Evolution Control Committee (arguably the best song ever)
  11. Paying my online friend in Minnesota to download ~40 songs and burn CDs for me because I didn’t have a CD burner yet
  12. Simultaneously downloading ten MP3s of the same song, then executing the ones that had slower estimated download times
  13. Wanting to die after waiting two hours for a song to download and realizing it was the “live” or “acoustic” version
  14. Neglecting IMs and “surfing the web” because the computer was buckling under the weight of my downloads and couldn’t handle more than one task at a time
  15. Being so goddamn impatient that I’d listen to the preview of “my favorite song ever, this week” 7-48 times while waiting for the download to complete
  16. Telling my dad, “IT’S NOT GOING TO HURT THE COMPUTER, DAD! ALL OF MY FRIENDS HAVE IT! GOD!”

File sharing (specifically, music sharing) has seen several iterations since 1999, but none have been as groundbreaking or formative as Napster. Every P2P knock-off pales in comparison, maybe because Napster somehow became part of our personal narratives and not just a means for free music. Miss you, babe. TC mark

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  • EvilMamaK

    To this day, my mom still insists that my Napster habits were what killed our shitty computer.

    • JB

      My mom was the one using Napster.  More than I ever did.

    • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

      Parents still don't understand technology.

  • http://twitter.com/jkymarsh J. Ky Marsh

    I never actually used Napster (I was a Kazaa and Soulseek man back in the day), but I can still relate to every single one of these (save for the Nirvana thing; fuck that band).

  • rina

    “Simultaneously downloading ten MP3s of the same song, then executing the ones that had slower estimated download times”i definitely did this with kazaa! never used napster either

  • http://twitter.com/timdonnelly Tim Donnelly

    Did anyone else get kicked off during the great Metallica ban purge wave? I did, then I found the way to crack the code and get back in to download more Metallica songs out of spite. This was my first exposure to hacking, and the road opened from there. That's what I remember about Napster.

  • Jordan

    I concur with every last one of these.  And some of them I still do…

  • http://twitter.com/sophiakiona Sophia Anderson

    Ha, my friends and I used to play the “napster game”, where we would search for each of our first names and whoever  had the most results won. We also would come up with words that we thought were “edgy” to search, which led to the discovery of the song Satanic Cowboy by Dog Fashion Disco (

    a not very good song which we were nonetheless obsessed with. Ah, youth.

  • Mark C

    napster+ cd burner= my ticket to making out with girls.  at least in my warped memory.

  • http://entropicalia.wordpress.com Alison

    Never used Napster. But I have some serious Audiogalaxy nostalgia.

  • http://www.twovisionaries.com Joseph Piccininni, Jr.

    haaaahhaa nostalgia! is #7 supposed to say “Without” a t1 connection?

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      No. I was a Cable snob!

  • Rachel Butters Scotch

    “Simultaneously downloading ten MP3s of the same song, then executing the ones that had slower estimated download times”
    I had totally forgotten about that. It was probably the best “problem solving” I ever did via Internet.

  • http://www.coinoperatedgirl.net Crystal

    The screechy white noise could be resolved with the uncooker program :)

  • Sam

    It also seemed like Napster had every song you could've ever wanted, as opposed to the P2P knock-offs that followed.

    I too remember thinking that it was too good to be true. Makes me appreciate being a 90s kid.

  • http://twitter.com/benhRjr ben Raifsnider, jr.

    i remember  queuing up all the albums/songs i wanted and letting the computer run all night and waking up with a 70 to 80% success rate.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      You just made my heart hurt.

  • Joe

    THIS. IS. SO. TRUE!!!

  • Bunny Hopson

    Dude, I made $50 bucks a week burning custom mix-cds using Napster downloads from 8-9th grade. Ahhh the days. Don't condemn me, I used most of my money to buy presents for my mom

    • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

      Yup, I knew someone in high school who did this too.  I always wish I had.

  • Asdf

    ur artciles are always self involved and usually pretty bad

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      so are your comments, try harder babe.

  • Wil

    First song on Napster: Finger Eleven – Drag you down.

    Oh 56k, the beginnings of my insomnia….

  • Daniel Afanador Jiménez

    But for then 7kb/s was so so fast according to my experience

  • Ulaanbaatar33

    Some of the stuff I have on my iPod are MP3s that are from CDs made from stuff originally downloaded from Napster, particularly a lot of old 90s music.

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