Prior to a decade ago, having distributed music around your house usually meant calling a custom installer to put in hundreds of feet of cable, multiple pairs of in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, and racks of amplifiers. You’d get keypads on your walls that could control, just barely, your distant sources via IR. There was no metadata feedback to select a particular song; you might have been able to advance to the next track on your CD player or dial up a different preset station on your FM tuner, but not much more. The cost for this was, well, prohibitive. Multiroom audio, for a long time, was strictly a rich man’s game.
Then MP3 and digital music happened. In late 1998, the first portable digital music player was commercialized; anybody remember the Diamond Rio? In mid-1999, Napster, a peer-to-peer file-sharing Website that facilitated the free distribution of ripped CD tracks, was launched; it barely lasted two years before being brought down by the music industry’s copyright enforcers. Six months before Napster crashed in July 2001, Apple’s Steve Jobs released the first version of iTunes library/player software, which he followed with the first iPod in October of that year.