Almost Ready to Leave Home
Ardour began its life 18 years ago, in late December 1999. The story has been told many times in many different places, but the gist of it is that I wanted a program something like ProTools that would run on Linux, and none existed. I decided to write one. I had little idea what would be involved, of course. Which was probably for the best, otherwise I would likely not have started.
Recently, while clearing out old paperwork from my office, I found myself reading some old issues (2001-2003) of the generally excellent magazine, Sound on Sound.They give a pretty good idea of the state of DAW technology at that time as well as other stuff like sampling, sequencing and so forth, which at that time were somewhat separate from the core functionality being offered by DAWs.
It occured to me that Ardour has actually managed to reach the goals I set out back in 2000. It is a capable DAW capable of doing the vast majority of the things people were doing with this kind of program around the start of a new millenium. Not suprisingly, that's still a substantive part of what people are doing now with DAWs in general even at the end of 2017.
There are some things that we were actually doing long before other DAWs. Anywhere-to-anywhere routing is something we more or less pioneered, and has now become common. A truly flexible mixer architecture (whose flexibility is sometimes its downfall). Support for different solo models. Even today press releases for new versions of several proprietary DAWs will regularly mention things that Ardour has done for more than a decade. Oh well - the point is not to gloat over this kind of thing, since there are plenty of things that Ardour doesn't do. The point is to note that the initial goals have largely been satisfied.
In fact, they've been more than satisfied, because Ardour also became a truly multi-platform project (running on Linux, MacOS (nee OS X) and Windows. It also gained some level of support for MIDI workflow, not to mention the video timeline.
Ardour has also served as the basis for two or three "commercial" projects - Harrison Mixbus, Waves Tracks Live (and the likely short-lived Radar Session software). We've somehow developed a way to raise significant (though not substantial) income every month, despite the program remaining under the GPL license. Nobody needs to pay for Ardour, but lots and lots of people choose to do so. These are no small accomplishments.
There were other, somewhat meta-goals too. I wanted Ardour to serve as an example (not a template or a toolbox) for other people to learn how to write a DAW. I doubted that we'd get everything right, but that at least compared to the situation in 1999, when there was no open source DAW suitable for use as a ProTools-like system, Ardour has truly fulfilled this idea. I suspect that Justin Frankel didn't take a lot of inspiration from Ardour's source code when he started writing Reaper, but it was fun having him on our IRC channels for a while as he got started with that project. Ardour has also attracted the involvement of nearly 50 skilled developers over the years, a dozen or so of whom have played major roles in the design and implementation of the program. A couple have even gone on full time paid jobs working on audio technology.
It wouldn't be completely unreasonable, after 18 years of development and having reached the level of features that Ardour now has, to consider it done, at least in some senses. It is true that we have a huge list of 2000+ bugs that remain open in our bug tracker. Our MIDI workflow has lots to complain about, and there are some glaring software design errors that users can see if they insist on trying some not-that-crazy stuff (e.g. working on MIDI versions of Phillip Glass pieces).
Still - people use it. Somebody starts Ardour up somewhere in the world at least every 3 minutes or so. Some of our users rave about in comparison to other DAWs. You can make albums with Ardour. Record live gigs. Basically do all the things I imagined back in December 1999.
But are we done? Absolutely not. In my next post, I'll outline some of the directions that I personally imagine Ardour going in during 2018 and beyond.