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On Slim Devices' online forum, Andrew Taylor (screen name: "audiofi") in northeastern Britain began a marathon discussion among the customers about the next product they wanted from the company. Although it would be new technology—a very high-end digital audio player—they wanted it to feel familiar and comfortable, with a retro 1970s hi-fi look and a case that could mount on the 19-inch-wide stereo racks in their living rooms:

  • Audiofi (Northumberland, UK) "I thought I would have a go at drawing what I would see as my ideal squeezebox design so that it … looks more hifi-ish …"

  • Paul Williamson (undisclosed) "I'm sure I'll get flamed for this, but these drawings look about as far from hifi gear as any I've ever seen… . kind of techno-geeky looking, but far from hifi … anything that isn't a 19" wide form factor (to me) isn't hifi gear."

  • Pfarrell (Northern Virginia) "Knobs, real hi-fi has knobs. Computers have buttons."

  • Paul Williamson "I have yet to own an amp that has anything but a huge knob for volume … none of those silly little up/down buttons …"

  • Dave D (Wake Forest, NC) "The volume knob is also an up/down control. You could use this for scrolling through hundreds of songs quickly… . Turn the knob slowly and the scrolls are much slower. Turn the knobs faster and they are much faster."

  • PR Geno (undisclosed) "… Shouldn't it have a larger display?"

…And Then They Actually Built It

  1. Adrian Smith, a network architect for a telecom company in the UK, and Kevin Deane-Freeman, an R&D hardware engineer for a printer company in Vancouver, British Columbia, rewrote the software to expand from the single display of Slim Devices' earlier Squeezebox products to this larger dual display.

  2. Richard Titmus, a former employee at a UK telecom company, worked with Slim's CTO Dean Blackketter to engineer the knob for fast, intuitive scrolling through long menus of song titles.

  3. Jon Heal, a programmer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Virginia (and artist), redesigned the volume meter's graphic to make it more attractive.

  4. Caleb Crome, an American programmer, tuned the remote control for fast scrolling.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.