It was 2001. The monolith appeared on the moon. A baby floated in space. And back here on earth, it was, as David Dixon, audio archivist genius, points out, a technological perfect storm:
This was right around the time that Napster was just beginning to penetrate into the average computer user's lives. At the same time, an audio utility program called MusicMatch Jukebox was also being widely used, since it was often pre-installed on off-the-shelf PC's. MMJ allowed you, among other things, to make recordings using the cheap microphone included with the PC, and save the file in mp3 format. If you didn't give the audio file a name, it assigned a default name "mic in track" followed by a number. Now if you were also running Napster, and you were careless enough to be sharing everything on your computer (which *many* were), then anyone also running Napster could just do a search for "mic in track" and find and download these personal recordings, usually without your knowledge.
I am that guy. I've amassed many, many hours of these recordings, which provide endless voyeuristic entertainment. Typical recordings were of people singing, rapping, or playing along with the radio (often badly), kids practicing their school book reports, audio love letters, kids being silly, and so forth. One of my finds was a 14-minute-long recording of a guy praying very fervently and emotionally, even lapsing into glossolalia. I've posted many of my favorites on my webpage, for free.
Those links are here. At the top are some ill-advised remixes, but a little further down are the original mic-in-tracks. I find Ross & Jake's improvised jam fascinating. Then there's an aspiring rapper rehearsing his flow. (We got whips and dips; we got hos and chips.) And: why is my sister such a dumb ass?
Some other highlights, discovered thanks to the insomnia of Sasha Frere-Jones, include: some genuine heartbreak, an on the nose satire by ten-year-olds of QVC, and a totally insane jug band hillbilly cover version, or really sequel to, Juvenile's Back That Thing Up.