Technically URH v1 was called "URH" and was a 16bit DOS based program written specifically for a student station in the mid 1990s. For the time it was surprisingly sophisticated and contained 3 main databases - Jingles, Adverts and Promos with Audio playback (obviously!) as well as User Security, bulletin boards and even a simple messaging system called H-Mail that allowed users to leave notes for each other - inspired by the 'new' innovation of e-mail! It also had a Record Library function for storing the vinyl and CD collection information.Myriad v2.0
It became pretty obvious that URHv1 was always going to be limited by being DOS based, so with a more or less total rewrite to run under Windows, it also got a new name and "Myriad" was born (so called because it did a 'Myriad' of things). To keep the version numbers going, it started at v2.0 and ran on Windows 3.1 or 3.11. It largely replicated the features of the original DOS Software but was obviously mouse driven. It was also the first version that allowed users to 'shell out' to an Audio Editor - Syntrilliums Cool Edit v1 to be exact.Myriad v2.1
Technically there wasn't really a v2.1 as v2.0 was more or less constantly evolving, but it was around this time that we added the ability to connect 2 PC's together using a Serial cable ("PowerNet" was our name for it) meaning we could now have 2 separate Cart Players with one soundcard fitted to each PC. The user wasn't aware that they were actually in 2 PC's as the serial cable did all the work of carrying the commands between the 2 machines and getting the info for the progress bars etc.
The 'main' PC ran almost all of the front end, and the second PC was initially relegated to showing notes and a few other panes like some Instant Cart Information.
As Myriad continued to develop (and hard drive sizes got larger - at this point up to the 500MB limit that would "never be broken"!) we started to store Songs and added a feature that could play through a bank of Instant Carts in sequence to give a very rudimentary list of items to play. Not long after this we created the 'ScratchPad' which let you build a much larger list of items to play - enough to run for a day or so if you were patient enough to build the list long enough.
The next major feature was the introduction of QueNXT or Q-NEXT (it varied!) on the second screen which quickly grew the ability to do sweepers as well as basic song/link playback. For trivia fans, the playback engine used was called the Q-NXT Playout Manager ('QPM') .
The logical step from here was our first Scheduling system 'AutoSchedule' which used the existing Record Library feature along with some simple Running Order windows to control what order items should be scheduled in and some simple controls of what categories to use.
Around this time we moved to running on Windows 95 (I believe we were the first playout system do this, but could be wrong!) and like almost all software of the time we were still 16bit. The move to Windows 95 OSR2 also brought the ability to run multiple soundcards in a single PC, but each card had to be from a different manufacturer, so this largely limited us to 3 players in total. We still had the PowerNet system though so you could install them in either of the 2 studio PC'sMyriad v2.2
By now Myriad was getting a lot of attention from Commercial radio in the UK and Myriad was now running several stations around the country. Our attention turned to adding features that Commercial Radio would need, and the first big innovation was Voice Custom - the ancestor of modern Myriad's Voice Tracking and Segue Editor. Trivia: The first Commercial radio station was supposed to be Fame AM in Crawley followed by sister station Mercury FM, but was pipped to the post by it's IRG sister station Lite AM in Salford after they had a massive electrical power surge that destroyed their previous playout system!
To handle the playback of Voice Custom links the Q-NXT Playout Manager was completely re-written and the Q-NXT Audio Engine (or 'QAE' for short) was invented and it's still going stong over 10 years later. The big advantage to QAE over the older QPM was it's ability to consider many different factors effectively simultaneously so we could be cueing up a variety of carts ready to play and overlaying them whilst also watching hardware inputs and Time markers. It's this very power and flexibility that has allowed us to continually add new features to this day.
Myriad v2.2 was also the first version to introduce other features that Commercial Radio needed like Copyright Reporting.
Incidentally, v2.2 also had the ability to use a hardware dongle connected to the Joystick Port, but in practice we only ever made about 5 of these!
This was the last version of Myriad that was 16bit.Myriad v2.5
Myriad STS saw it's debut here - it actually preceded Myriad 2.5 by several months and was our first ever 32bit product. It was creating the extremely reliable Myriad STS v2.5 that laid the ground work to start work on Myriad v2.5. For trivia fans, the first install of Myriad STS was Scot FM in Edinburgh - now known as Real Radio.
Myriad v2.5 was largely a 'port' of Myriad v2.2 to 32Bit, but it did give us a chance to clear out a few features that had long fallen by the wayside. H-Mail was the first to go, along with a few other little oddities, and it also saw the start of the change away from Physical record libraries to digital audio. In our case this meant that the Record Library became a sub-menu, and Item Cards that instead 'pointed' to a Cart took precedence.
Another change was with Licensing - v2.2 had used hard coded licensing information for each customer so if a version was pirated it was easy for us to find out where it had come from. Myriad v2.5 saw the move to a generic build for all customers and licensing was done by a combination of License Name and centralised License code shared across all Myriad computers.
This was were a lot of the big architectural changes started to come in that can clearly be seen in the modern products. By now Windows 95OSR2 and Windows 98b were both well adopted and supported multiple monitors so Instead of needing 2 computers to provide 2 screens we could do it all on a single PC with a dual output video card instead.
This meant we could combine Q-NXT into the same program as the Audiowall and Database views and introduce drag drop between them.
Up until Myriad v2.6.69 we had stil been using the same basic Audio Engine as the last versions of v2.2 (although obviously a 32 bit port!) and some users may remember it had a tendency to 'fader swap' so all of a sudden Cart Player 1 would be coming out of Fader 2 and vice versa.
Myriad v2.6.85 saw a huge amount of work resulting in the introduction of SmoothStream(TM) which resolved this problem as well as bringing a much simpler model allowing us to once again start adding new features - like SuperSweep (anyone remember the SuperSweep Logo of a cartoon style superhero?!)
Although SmoothStream has evolved a huge amount since then, the same basic principles are still to be found even in Myriad v3.6's audio engine.
Myriad v2.5 and v2.6 also saw the final split of scheduling from Playout, resulting in AutoTrack as a standalone Music Scheduler. AutoTrack in itself was a massive departure from the original AutoSchedule engine, but thats another story...Myriad v3.0
By now we were well into the 'noughties' and Myriad v2 was starting to look a little visualy tired. Windows XP had moved Windows away from grey buttons and screens in favour of a more modern 'blue' scheme. A lot of new potential customers were starting to comment that Myriad seemed to be really good, but looked quite dated and distinctly grey.
- Built in Audio Editor rather than having to shell out to Cool Edit/Adobe Audition.
- Built in CD-Ripping
- Auto-Hooks are automatic creation of promos that are created on the fly based on the music due to play that hour.
- Completely new security engine with combined Contact Management
- User Preferences and per-user Edit Cart ranges
- New segue editor
- Online licensing so users no longer had to renew license codes in office hours.
- Customisable colour schemes.
- Basic Macro language.
- Remote Voice Tracking
Oddly despite a huge number of users commenting that Myriad v2 was a too grey, Myriad v3's blue colour scheme wasn't popular with everyone and a log of people commented that they didn't see what was wrong with the old grey look
AutoTrack Pro v3 had actually preceded Myriad v3.0 by a year so to reduce confusion it was upgrade to v3.1Myriad v3.5
- Totally new Audio Engine allowing playback of non-wav audio for the first time - mp3, mp2, ogg and WMA joined WAV playback.
- Windows Vista and Windows 7 support (although offically we don't support Windows Vista, it does work very well on it!)
- Another round of updates to the Segue Editor
- A huge amount of work went into the Macro language to make a very powerful engine for users who need to do more 'behind the scenes'
- Built in Podcast Creator
- Audiowall Auto-Importer introduced for the first time
- Content Types and Categorisation for Carts
- InstantTrack brings a simply scheduling system for users who don't need the power of AutoTrack,
- AutoFill uses InstantTrack to pad out underrunning hours.
- Lots more use of pictures throughout Myriad making it a very visual product which is ideal for engaging younger users for example in School Radio
- Much improved support for Touchscreens - although in practice these are still fairly rare, not least because screens tend to be fitted behind mixers meaning they are pretty much out of reach of users sat in front of them!
- The last versions of Myriad v3.5 also introduced Waveform or 'peak' files to make editing of Extro times etc. a much faster task.
Myriad Network v3.6 was also introduced which built on Myriad STS and added dozens of new features - again, a separate story though!Myriad v3.6
- Myriad Intelligent Interface : This gives direct integration with the P Squared SRM audio mixer giving users much more visual feedback directly from the mixer itself - faders flash to show the state of carts in players, the Mic Live is indicated on screen, and Cart Players flag on screen if the fader is down so you can easily tell if what you are about to play isn't going to be heard on-air.
- Voice announcements : These were added to help partially sighted and blind users by announcing information about the highlit items on the Audiowall or in the log direct to headphones.
- Hardware control for severely disabled users : options are now available to use Accessibilty switches to scroll around the Audiowall allowing severely disabled users to choose and play audio themselves.
Myriad v3.6 is also the first version of be available in an 'Enterprise' Edition which is targetted specifically at large radio networks and bigger ILR stations and uses SQL Server and DFS Replication to manage distribution of audio, metadata and Log information across multiple sites.
This also saw the first outing for OCP v3 - OCP v3.6.1 was released at the same time as Myriad v3.6.1The Future
Thats the story of Myriad over the last 15 or 16 years, who knows where Myriad will go over the next 15 years.
Already we're seeing new technologies such as Microsoft's Kinect and multitouch screens changing the way desktop computers are being used. It's fairly easy to picture a presenter waving their arms around in a studio selecting tracks and manipulating the log, but in practice a mouse and keyboard is likely to remain the most popular interface for the time being.
Cloud computing can bring enormous benefits to some applications, but the current bandwidth of most broadband connections means that Audio still has to be stored locally, so probably isn't something we'll see as a major game changer in the Playout market.
Certainly programme sharing and Networking is a much bigger part of a modern radio stations output that it was even 5 years ago, and the latest versions of Myriad and Myriad Network are demonstrably ahead of any other product currently in the market, but again, where it will be in 15 years time only time will tell.
5 years ago everyone thought Podcasting was going to be the next big thing, but we're still yet to see this in mainstream use, with only the bigger stations regularly turning out good podcasts - though there are some pretty notable exceptions to this from some mid range and smaller stations who are really pushing the boundaries. Overall though, as a general rule Podcasting can't bring revenue so isn't something many stations are going to be putting any major resources behind.
We already have quite a few neat things in the pipeline but unsurprisingly we can't tell you about them just yet....
Peter Jarrett, Technical Director
Broadcast Radio Ltd.
Bill Bailey: No win, no fee, no basis in reality. Just a room above a minicab office in Acton and a steady stream of greedy simpletons whose delusion is only matched by their clumsiness